One-hit wonders – every genre of music has them. Does anybody remember a Gary Numan song besides “Cars” or a Henry Rollins song besides “Liar?” If you can answer YES then you probably run their official fan club and send e-mail to a few thousand hardcore dedicated fans every other month; but for the most part they faded from collective memory just as quickly as they rose up the charts to begin with. That’s the nature of the industry really. Megalithic record labels love one-hit wonders, because they require no effort to create and no investment to sustain – they come and go like fast food.
Enter B Rich. If you asked me who this guy was before “Whoa Now” there’s no chance in hell I could have told you who he was. Even today, the only thing that can be said about B Rich for sure is that he’s from Baltimore. Why is “Whoa Now” such a huge hit though? One-hit wonders usually have a gimmick: they’re quirky, or humerous, or strike a chord with fond nostalgia. Ahh, nostalgia – that same vein that caused a sensation on cable TV when networks and advertisers realized reruns of “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons” were profitable. Whether you’re old enough to have watched the show when it first aired, or young enough to have seen it on Nick at Nite, you probably know “The Jeffersons” theme song – the very same one Nelly re-interpreted and milked for nostalgic value on his hit “Batter Up.” Well if it worked once, why not do it again? The chorus should give you an idea:
“Whoa now, that’s what the old heads say
I party like it’s my birthday, drinkin and still thirsty
Whoa now, shorty give me what you got
The spot kinda live and I see you gettin hot”
By stretching one section of the song into a four minute marathon, B Rich creates a relatively unoffensive and catchy song about partying. The rest of the album more or less milks the same formula, minus the nostalgia or the catchy hooks. He raps the same way on each track, and the chorus form he uses is so formulaic anybody could do it. “Two words, one word and more, rap this and this and go-for-yours.” In fact the only track that really stands out is the intro; strangely enough this mixture of tinkling piano and oriental beats was produced by Rob ‘The Natural’ Lewis, whose last well-known contribution to hip-hop was masterminding Nine’s seminal classic “Nine Livez.” This short song proves he still has the touch, but why it was wasted here instead of being used throughout the LP proves no one put much thought into it.
It probably wouldn’t be near as offensive to hear B Rich rap the same way on the same topics for fifteen tracks if some songs didn’t have damn near the same TEMPO. Substitute the flat drum-like sounds of “Showtime” for the hand claps of “Whoa Now” and they’d blend perfectly. Not good. “Hip-Hop Slang” is interchangable with either of them, and the tapped clave-esque sound of “Eighty (All I Need)” could swap in too. After a while the songs produced by Dukeyman, Mike Caren and James ‘Groove’ Chambers all start to sound alike; in fact, they might as well be the same man.
On an average review I would probably tell you that if you were buying a CD or vinyl single for $6, you might as well double that and pay for the album to at least get one or two more hits. Not this time. If you liked what you heard when you heard “Whoa Now,” you can stop right there. This highly profitable one-hit wonder will probably make Atlantic Records a ton of money, but what the rest of the album lacks in creativity could make the shittiest demo tape you heard sound good in comparison – at least the tracks on it probably sounded different from one song to the next.