When people complain about the ongoing ‘commercialization’ of rap music I usually try not to listen. But even I start to worry when I see rappers giving media-trained responses in interviews instead of speaking their mind. Sure, superstars need publicists to handle the media, but when newcomers are being told how to kiss ass in the music business I don’t see how their music will be any different from whatever dominates the pop charts. But then again ‘success is the word’ ever since 12:41 recorded a track by the same name in 1985. Oh, you don’t know about “Success Is the Word”? It features, among others, a young KRS-One talking about travelling “by a jet to the south of France (…) with the finest clothes, and drive a big car.” But 12:41 also knew that nothing ventured is nothing gained. KRS again: “Work real hard, both day and night (…) you got to pay some dues if you play this game.”
If you want to build a successful career you have to be serious about what you do. Rapper A-Bomb takes his career definitely serious, or else he wouldn’t have kept mailing our website to ask when we finally would review the Bomb and Hype CD. And he’s got a reason to pursue his dream with such a persistence. He hints at it in “Unstoppable”:
“Only reason I’m in this game:
cause I don’t wanna live insane
as I did in the past;
Mind set on gettin’ the cash”
Mentioning something about a drug rehab in your press kit might make A&R’s shy away from dealing with a rapper, no matter how hopeful he might be. But this is not about having a major company-backed ‘Show & Prove’ portrait in XXL or a ‘Microphone Check’ in The Source. A-Bomb and Hype-One are their own damn publicists. But screw publicity and promotion, it’s the raps that count. And there Bomb and Hype talk a little too much about their imminent success. Well, what do up-and-coming rappers talk about? About coming up. But some of their statements make me question claims like “I love rap music, but dog, I can’t stand the bidness / we been in this shit for years, dog, we ain’t beginners.” Is not that they do it, it’s how they do it that makes all that talk about blowing up seem kinda naive and occasionally even contradictory, like when Hype says, “I’ve always loved the music, not the g’s to get,” to go on about how he certainly will sell a million records. Why? It’s not likely going to happen, so why not talk about other things, things that might actually matter to the listener?
On the other hand it’s that conquering spirit that drives rap music, that makes rappers come up with clever lines like “We stay focusin’ on foldin’ the paper like oregami” (Bomb) or “I’m like a candle flame, I’ma always shine on wax” (Hype). Hip-hop is the hustle of the hungry: “We plan to shut down the streets when we talk to these beats / it’s no longer a question of skill but a question of greed,” proclaims Hype in “You Get Bucked”. Just don’t believe him when he tells you he is “one of the hardest MC’s since Ra hit the scene”…
While they both have no problem flowing, A-Bomb usually lays more back on the mic. Despite his lackadaisical demanor he repeatedly manages to catch the listener off guard with witty lines like “Bitch niggas tend to talk about they clicks a lot / I’ll just say I got back like Sir Mix-a-Lot,” “They’d better package / my album with Excedrine tablets” – or the one I enjoyed especially:
“Niggas know I been hot since I first dropped
Shouts to white kids that listened to nerd rock
until they heard Pac, and then decided to cross over
without y’all I’d probably be a lot broker”
Bomb’s also responsible for a nasty little interlude about a bad case of mistaken identity (I’ll spare you the details). His “All My Niggas” seems a bit out of place here, but since Bomb and Hype come from different backgrounds, it’s evident that they occasionally should have different priorities. Ultimately, Bomb and Hype, who have hooked up over the internet and clicked so well that they ended up sharing the same appartment, are proof that hip-hop still manages to bring together all types of different people.
Where “117” lacks in professionality is the beat department. While the tracks are produced by a variety of producers, they all sound like they’ve been transferred from low-bit-encoded files from their www.mp3.com section to CD. It makes it extremely difficult to judge the quality of the tracks. Which is sad because some of them seem to bounce around in that same funky, futuristic parallel universe that Timbaland keeps exploring (Nkredible’s “Unstoppable”, Nashid’s “You Get Bucked”, Z Productions’ “Can I”), while others just sound nice period, without evoking any comparisons (Kayel’s “The Time Is Coming”, DJ JB’s “Kitchen Table”). But again, the inferior sound quality is a disservice to the producers, the rappers and last but not least the listeners.
But with time comes experience and wisdom, so let’s hope Bomb and Hype will be able to transform their determination into more meaningful songs like “Till the Next”, “Kitchen Table” and “U Understand”, whose chorus is not only proof that they’re already on the right track but might also serve them as a guideline to further advance:
“What you know about those sleepless nights
smokin’ good, havin’ fun but not eatin’ right
Jesus Christ, livin’ life this way has gotta end
Determination will display the true heart in a man”