Hear This: Cam'ron, Musiq Soulchild and Beastie Boys
It's been a banner year for hip-hop and neo-soul veterans. The Root's roundup highlights spring's best offerings.
Gunz n' Butta by Cam'ron and Vado
From Raekwon to Pharoahe Monch and more, this spring has been a special one for hip-hop veterans. It almost reminds me of the autumn of 1998 with its embarrassment of hip-hop riches. Into this mix comes Cam'ron and his protégé Vado, with their album Gunz n' Butta (a phrase you may vaguely remember from 10th-grade social studies class). The album features many infectious hard-core party records, some of which have been burning up New York radios and clubs for some time, such as "Speakin in Tungs," "We All Up in Here" and "Hey Mumma" (the album includes instrumentals of the last two of these crazy bangers), and the more recent hit "Stop It 5."
The intense production, mostly the handiwork of Araab Muzik, is reminiscent of the music that used to rock clubs like the Tunnel and Speed in the early to mid-2000s, when Cam'ron and the Dip Set helped to make Speed into New York's hottest hip-hop venue. Gunz n' Butta is musically and poetically energetic; you could work out to it from start to finish. There is no soul-searching, no introspective track, no funny skits, no "Dear Mama" track. There's one romantic track ("Be With Me"), but it has one of the most ferocious beats I've heard in a while. Be warned: The album also features a strong dose of male chauvinism.
Cam has ushered along the careers of talented rappers such as Juelz Santana and Jim Jones, but it remains to be seen if Vado's career will reach the level attained by Cam's other protégés. Vado is a skilled but straightforward "monologic" rapper with little humor, one voice and one setting, whereas Cam, since his debut circa 1994, has been one of the most dynamic, lyrical, hilarious, ironic and innovative and diverse rappers to ever step in the booth. Vado has potential, but Cam carries the team. Also, Vado should vet his metaphors more carefully. In one chorus he compares himself to former 'N Sync manager Lou Pearlman, who has been disgraced on various fronts.
My favorite track is "F***-a-Freestyle" (produced by Antonio Jimenez), which is essentially two clever, bravado-dense freestyle verses over a slow and powerfully thumping piano-laced track. If there were still such a thing as music made for Jeeps (as they used to do in the early '90s) and driving around on a summer day, this would be it!
Another track that I predict will be a hit is the catchy "Lights, Camera, Action." To give you a sense of what it sounds like, here is Cam's intro: "Damn Araab. This that early '80s joint right here ... This remind me of that R. Kelly two-step joint right here. My uncle might do the James Brown slide off this joint right here." I might do the James Brown slide off the whole album.