Everything I know about scenes is confined to rock music, and most of the detailed stuff I know about rock scenes is confined to the psychedelic rock scenes of the 1960s. That’s probably the only period where I could hear music I don’t know and give a good guess as to where it was made. (This might also apply a bit to prog rock.) When I hear hip hop, I have no idea where it was made. I couldn’t tell you if a hip hop record from the ’90s was east coast or west coast, unless of course I recognized the voice of one of the few MCs I actually know the voices of (Ice T, Ice Cube, Chuck D, etc). So, the extent to which this record established southern hip hop as its own thing – well I have no idea. To me it sounds like hip hop, albeit a little more musically diverse than most of the stuff from the early ’90s which I’m familiar with. So I have no idea how this is different. But here I am reviewing it anyway.
Like so many ’90s albums, this record is too damn long. There’s not enough material – though only a few skits, which is a relief – to make it more than an hour. I should rephrase that: rather, some of the songs go on too damn long despite not having a lot of variation. You shorten the longest tracks and you probably have a record that is a little less exhausting by the end. (You can’t deny their ambition, though.)
The good news is that this is super catchy. I mean, it’s extremely catchy. It’s a rare balance (I think) to make a record this catchy that doesn’t also sound like it exists solely to sell records.
The record is relatively diverse (to the best of my knowledge), which is both a good thing and a bad thing. It feels like these guys listen to lost of different stuff, including various forms of R&B and jazz, and that comes across in the arrangements. But sometimes they reach too far, such as on the Prince tribute/parody/imitation, “Funky Ride,” which, as someone else noted, comes across as something Prince would have left off one of his ’90s records. Still, the vast majority of the songs have a lot more going on in them than I’m used to, and that’s a good thing.
And this is a pretty dense sounding record, which is one reason why I think it comes across as uncommercial, despite how unbelievably catchy it is. There’s a grime to this thing that really makes the record sound like it is the work of an underground group.
I really have no idea how important this record is, but it’s pretty good given my reference points, both because of how insistently catchy it is, and because it definitely feels like it has its own sound. But what do I know.