Stones Throw Records
There IS a Hip-Hop album here that is hidden between a what feels like Madlib's auditory sketches. If you take away all of the maddeningly unfocused Madlib interludes and skits, you get a fairly decent album. Guilty Simpson's monotone, aggressive delivery is nearly overshadowed by Madlib's production on many of the actual songs, but he still completes enough clever punchlines to keep you listening.
Madlib can drive you mad. This album is the perfect example of why. Half of this album is the Guilty Simpson "OJ Simpson" album. The other half is Madlib's sketch pad. The part that is Madlib's sketch pad has plenty of amazing beats, but they don't last! They fade in and out between other incomplete tracks and weird vocal samples. Anyhow, it is the policy of Sonink not to count short tracks, or skits as part of the album ratings in a rule that I used to call the "Hip-Hop" rule, now, I'm just going to call it the "Madlib" rule. So what about the part that actual features Mr. Byron Simpson aka "Guilty Simpson" (yes, his real last name is Simpson)? Well, it's not half bad...but I still feel like the producer overshadows the MC on this one unlike some other notable Madlib collaborations (J.Dilla on "Jaylib" and "MF Doom" on "Madvillany").
Maybe that last statement is a bit unfair. I mean, it is difficult not to be overshadowed by a person of Madlib's impressive ability. And yes, on the moments of focus, the beats are pretty amazing. Guilty Simpson's flow is monotone, stream-of-consciousness battle rap and he doesn't really switch up that style at all from track to track. So if you aren't into that sort of thing, or if you are only tangentially into that sort of thing, then either you won't enjoy this album (again, after cutting out the interludes and skits) or you'll grow weary of it. That is not to say that Guilty Simpson can't bring it lyrically - he can and he does - but he is very dependent on the producer elevating his delivery. Thankfully, he's got a producer in tow who can do that as he does on tracks like "Karma of a Kingpin" and especially on "Coroner's Music".
Speaking of "Coroner's Music", holy crap is that an awesome down and dirty Madlib beat! Now THAT is the kind beat you kick battle rap rhymes to. After making such a great impression with the Strong Arm Steady project, I would have thought that their appearance on this one would have been a slam dunk, but not so much. "Outside ft. Strong Arm Steady" sports what isn't one of Madlib's greatest beats - and Guilty Simpson and the members of Strong Arm Steady need a strong track to elevate their delivery.
It may seem unfair to dismiss half of the album outright, but in my opinion the "Madlib's mind-meld" portions of the album are really not representative of Madlib's best work. So taking them out of the equation, you are left with a battle rapper with some occasionally funny punchlines and Madlib on the boards which means that the tracks go as Madlib's beats do. When the beats are good, the tracks are good. Focus on the actual songs, and you just might find something to like. I just hope next time, Madlib lets his MC be the star and leaves his incomplete work on the cutting room floor.
3.667 out of 5
|1. Prelude (02:58)|
|2. Introduction (01:11)|
|3. O.J. Simpson (03:31)||3|
|4. Pimp Rap Interlude (02:06)|
|5. New Heights (02:47)||4|
|6. Karma of a Kingpin (01:49)||5|
|7. Think Twice Interlude (01:04)|
|8. Coroner's Music (02:29)||5|
|9. A Friend's Help Interlude (02:38)|
|10. Back on the Road Again (01:55)||4|
|11. Gone Crazy Interlude (01:43)|
|12. Hood Sentence (03:12)||4|
|13. The Preacher's Wife Interlude (00:51)|
|14. Cali Hills (03:05)||4|
|15. Something Bad (Intermission One) (04:25)|
|16. Something Good (Intermission Two) (03:05)|
|17. Scratch Warning (feat. Frank) (03:28)||3|
|18. Hold Your Applause Interlude (01:40)|
|19. Outside (feat. Strong Arm Steady) (03:10)||2|
|20. Bow Wow Interlude (01:40)|
|21. Mic Check 313 (02:40)||3|
|22. Trendsetters (01:55)||3|
|23. 100 Styles (02:50)||4|
|24. Outro (01:31)|