TRYING TOO HARD: To be like the rest.
Despite a seemingly obvious incongruity, mainstream streets-heavy rap continues to percolate here in Portland and beyond, along the pine-tree-lined streets, particularly, of our colleges, with active scenes at SMCC, USM, UMaine-Orono, and UMaine-Presque Isle. There is a Maine Rap MySpace page, featuring all the mainstream bling and crooked-hat trappings, and plenty of aspiring artists with decent flows and solid production. Look for Changa, OZ, Yung Billion (Tha Prince of Maine), Casinova, Young Solo, and Lil Dynomite if you’re curious.
The latest full-length release is from Frank Buddas, who’s traveled north to our fair state from his roots in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He’s done a solid job of promoting his debut, Loyalties a Must, and the album’s production is equally professional. There’s no way to distinguish it from the scores of mainstream rap albums that continue to flood the market, even if Nas has declared the genre dead. That’s the good and bad news, here.
Where some genres are full of bands intent on creating something new and different, it feels as though new mainstream rap artists are more interested in trying to sound just like everybody else, emulating their heroes in delivery and content. Buddas raps about making money, offing people, other rappers, his wife and children, everything you might expect. He tells you how he rolls, how he gets pussy, how he’s “trying to revitalize rap,” how “that’s what the government wants/Kill your own kind.” The words become for me just another instrument in the overall song structure and hard to appreciate.
However, it must be said that Buddas has an impressive baritone delivery that’s always clean, emphasizes the right syllables, and hooks the listener. No doubt he’s better live, when you can better absorb his intensity. And he does bust out a nice couplet from time to time. “Psychic bitches give good head,” he notes on “This Is How I Roll,” “They read minds.” On “Crazy,” he observes that his girl “likes the fact I ain’t afraid to lick her kitten.”
For the large part, however, the lyrics are fairly cliché. In the album’s opener, “Close Your Eyes,” we’re treated to boasts like, “homey I can’t be touched,” “Every word I spit precise,” “Cross the line I’m burying all your loved ones,” and “I’m packin’ a Mac.” I’m guessing the last isn’t a reference to a cool computer.
Maybe it is, though, since the production Buddas supplies is probably the most notable element here. The synths are tight and dark, then chingy and bright. He orchestrates love ballads as easily as bangers. The album retains a consistent aesthetic without the 17 songs running into one another. Intros and outros are clean and nicely arranged. The recent discs from Mims, Boyz N Da Hood, and Goldie Loc all share similar techniques. One wonders if the production booth isn’t Buddas’s true calling, where he could leave the rapping to someone else while he focused on propping them up. The new Timbaland album suggests that even the best producers can’t always produce all the content by themselves.