Hailing from Yonkers, New York, DJ Shok was one of the many unseen faces in the Ruff Ryders camp whose behind-the-scenes work helped sell over 13 million albums. As an in-house producer alongside Swizz Beats, Shok has produced hits for Drag-On (“Spit These Bars”), DMX (“Slippin”), and outside artists including Big Pun, Busta Rhymes, and Loon. Now a free agent, on “Shok TV” & “The Lost Tapes” DJ Shok showcases his production skills to those who may not know him by name, but know his music.
The first half of the mixtape “Shok TV” is dedicated to 16+ bar freestyles, and Shok sets the backdrop by sampling popular TV themes and adding minimalist drum loops to them. Starting off with “ABC Wide World of Sports,” newcomer ILL spits gruesome, horrorcore similes that fit perfectly with the mixtape’s title. Known for his appearances on MTV’s MC Battle and 106th & Park’s Freestyle Friday, ILL flings heavy threats towards rappers, and at the expense of a few celebrities:
“My brain is infected badly —
I burn my father to ashes, roll him inside of a Phil’ and “puff daddy” …
ILL shed styles like venomous reptiles
And run a razor across your throat so that your neck smiles …
ILL ain’t Dr. Dre — but you’re ’bout to feel the Aftermath
When I wire your jaw like Kanye’s”
On “Hill Street Blues,” Saigon takes a socio-political stance and projects his views on current affairs. By itself, the melodic piano from the 1980s TV show will have listeners reaching for the rewind button, but Saigon’s revolutionary rants are like frosting on the cake. Saigon ends by forcefully asking the government: “Why am I wrong if I kill a nigga that punch me // But it’s right for you to blow up a whole country?”
Shok transforms a Nick-at-Nite ditty to a motorcycle-revved medley on “Munsters,” and Drag-On comes along for the bumpy ride; while J-Hood nonchalantly back-smacks rappers over the chopped up “Jetsons” theme, confidently bragging: “I’m about to take the game over, look at the signs // They bootlegging my demo that I made in ’99.” Then on the eerie “Halloween,” long-time-no-see MC Lord Tariq proves he still has it over a famous piano loop that’ll send shivers up your spine.
The second half of the CD (“The Lost Tapes”) is dedicated to unreleased Shok-produced tracks. Rapper-turned-actor Eve spits with fury on “Eve of Destruction,” and she’s backed by an ill batch of violins and Enya-like chants, ultimately the song is brought down by a clunky drum loop. Spicy salsa strings accompany Sheek Louch on “The Story,” and fellow LOX-member Jadakiss shines on the summer smooth “Happy To Be Here.” But alas, then there are tracks like “It’s Nothing,” where former Fugees member Pras proves that a MC can indeed drop two 12-bar verses and still not say a damn thing.
While a few beats on “Shok TV” are brilliant (“Hill Street Blues” and “Happy to Be Here”) many others are borderline boring (“Monday Night Football,” “Flintstones,” and “Get Down & Dirty”). Overall, the mixtape is bogged down by simplistic percussions and nasal-sounding synthesizers, while lyrically many of the guest MC’s fluctuate between “good” and “tolerable.” In addition, 26 tracks (77 minutes) of gun-talk, violent threats, and street braggadocio eventually get pretty monotonous.
While the “Shok TV” half is much better lyrically, “The Lost Tapes” is better production-wise, but couple that with a bunch of annoying skits, and what you get is an “all right” mixtape that’ll stay in your CD rotation for about a week at the most. Much like his former co-producer, Swizz Beats, when Shok makes a beat it’s either a hit-or-miss — when it’s a hit your head’ll be nodding uncontrollably, but when it’s a miss … eh, you get the point. Hopefully Shok’s future projects will stick to the former rather than the latter.