Thursday, September 6, 2012
I Put Off Listening To This Album for a Long Time...
Since you can see the picture clear enough, I won't milk the suspense: I'm talking about DoItAll's American DU album. I'd been a fan of The Lords Of the Underground since they first made a record name-dropping my hometown back in 1992; but just wasn't up to facing another "past his prime" disappointment. And LOTUG was already coming with a questionable batting average. And, ten years after "Funky Child," did I really want to hear anymore of that crazy, cartoon voice flow and punch-lines? This is 2012. But, finally, what pushed me over the edge was that I was curious about the Grand Daddy IU guest spot on track 14. If nothing else, he was going to kill his verse, so I might as well test the waters.
Now, this isn't DoItAll's first solo album; he released the very rare Eleventh Hour in 2003. I don't even have that, though I've heard some tracks and... eh. But I have to say, in the end, I'm glad I got American Du and have finally checked it out.
First of all, thankfully, DoItAll's coming with a more mature, relaxed steez. No silly, hyperactive, "can I slam like Bam Bam, that kid from Bedrock" raps. And while it's tempting to just say "needs some K-Def!" (which really would've gone a long way), the production by a collection of essential unknowns is actually often pretty full-bodied and interesting. Pete Rock (yay!) and Scott Storch (yeck!) drop by for one track apiece, but everything else is by cats named Jimmy Johnson, Kay Mason, Be-Life, The Real Focus, Tab, Lady Trauma, Ric Note, The Are*, Illastrate, Lexzyne, and Mel & D. I feel like he made all those names up, but I, no, I don't really believe that. It's just a bunch of tracks (this is a long album) by a bunch of unknowns.
If you're gonna give this album a go, though, I have to say, skip the first couple of tracks. There's bad spoken word poetry, talking intros, R&Bish skits and some crappy club beats. If you're feeling open-minded, you might jump in at track 4, his joint with DJ Kool, but discerning heads will want to hold out a little longer, even past Pete Rock's "Surrender," which is far descended from his best work, it's tempting to believe that there must be two Pete Rocks working in the industry - the one we all love and remember so fondly, and the new guy who's running around ruining his rep. But, sadly, no...
Anyway, wasn't I saying there's something actually good about this album? Yeah, just start in about midway through. If this were a cassette or LP, I'd say just play side 2 and forget about what's on side 1. Just... don't even think about it or question it. But starting with "Let's Go," we're into some compelling territory. It's a posse cut with Craig G, Masta Ace and Ed O G. And thankfully, they've got a good beat for 'em. They all come nice and sound really good. There are some quality scratches at the very beginning and ending by DJ Lord Jazz himself, and while they make the unfortunate decision not to use them on the hook, but have some guy named Probz do some LV-ish kinda hook, they still manage to pull it off alright.
But it's not just the guest spots (the rest include Treach, Shyheim, Mr. Cheeks and a bunch of unknowns) which are compelling. As the album progresses, DoItAll comes pretty nice over some solid tracks. "Surgeon General" and "Hi Def State of Mind" are some respectably produced reminders of why DoItAll's a name worth remembering. And "Flash Forward" is a really compelling, jazz sampled instrumental. Really, if you don't let side 1 tarnish your listening experience and listen to side 2 with fresh ears, it's a nice little record with only one annoying skit. No, it's not the an Illmatic or anything, but I'd give the second half of this album a genuine recommendation. Just make sure you don't hear the first seven tracks, or it'll ruin your opinion of the good stuff. I mean, it's at least worth giving it a spin if it's sitting there on your desk, staring you down.
*Actually, I know who The Are is; he's from K-Otix. Remember them? I should do a blog on those cats one of these days.