There’s never been an album called “Based on a Total Fabrication” has there? Certainly not in hip-hop music at any rate. Rap artists are often just a little TOO obsessed with convincing the public that everything they say on their records is a mirror perfect reflection of who they are and what they do. Some have suggested that the more a rapper stresses how “real” they are, the more likely they are to be perpetrating total fraud. That’s not necessarily true. In fact the list of rappers from the South doing jail time right now, from Pimp C to T.I. to No Limit’s own C-Murder, is starting to get far too long for anybody in or outside the industry to be happy about. The more pertinent question might actually be that if it’s all true, what difference does it make? Truth != entertainment. That’s not to say there aren’t good documentary films, or that a non-fiction autobiography can’t be a good read, but if you’re playing close attention the most successful of them often distort facts a little or give them a slant to make them more entertaining. The moment you put it out for the public the agenda behind it becomes clear whether it was making a point, making money, or both. In some ways this makes straight up fiction more honest, because it makes no pretenses at being real – it’s just there to entertain you.
So for Silkk the Shocker, how “real” the words are on his album makes little to no difference to the fans. He could be totally truthful, exagerrating just a little bit, or out and out lying. What difference does it make? All that matters is whether Silkk can achieve his most important goal with “Based on a True Story,” and that’s selling records. If what he has to say is clever, well-rapped, and backed up with good beats he’ll succeed. The ‘New’ No Limit needs Silkk to succeed just as much if not more. After nearly dominating the hip-hop scene for a few years and putting out a new album just about every week, No Limit has found their importance and influence waning at the same time they’ve found their roster of artists to be shrinking. At this point the most important people left on the label are family. Master P and Silkk the Shocker are brothers, and Lil’ Romeo is P’s own son. That’s not to say such a strategy can’t work, as E-40 made his family superstars on their own Sick’Wid’It record label, putting them out as The Click and releasing solo albums for each. The problem is that before No Limit became the New No Limit, the perception of the label was that they were so large their symbolic “tank” could roll over comp just on the strength of their numbers. As a result the public hasn’t embraced the reformed record label, as No Limit’s shrinking team just seemed to expand the room for other Southern rappers to muscle their way into record stores and sales charts – and they have.
Like his brother’s label, Silkk has been suspiciously quiet in recent years compared to their prolific output throughout the late 1990’s. It’s been three years since “My World, My Way” was released, and that album didn’t really set the rap world on fire. At one time though he couldn’t have been hotter, even rising to the top of both the pop and R&B charts doing a duet with singer Mya on “Movin’ On” back in 1998. At the time Silkk was a very high-pitched, energetic and charismatic rapper. At times his non-stop flow seemed to be in danger of derailing tracks and he probably needed to reign it in a bit, but it was certainly attention grabbing. And clearly Silkk has some old school influences, as his classic line “I’m not Eric B but guaranteed to Move this motherfuckin Crowd” from Master P’s hit “Make Em’ Say Uhh” proved (although it would have made more sense if he had said Rakim, since Eric B never rapped). So what happened to Silkk? His whole style has changed up. He doesn’t shout to punctuate the end of his sentences. He doesn’t try to cram ten thousand words into one bar of rhymes. Even his vocal tone seems to have dropped down a bit. These changes seemed to have robbed Silkk of his charisma altogether, as he now half-heartedly plows his way through the lyrics, even on potential hits like the “We Like Them Girls (Remix)” co-starring Master P and Petey Pablo. If his lack of enthusiasm wasn’t bad enough, the words themselves are highly uninspired. He can’t even spit the first two lines wihout straight jacking from Ice Cube:
“Just wakin up in the mornin, gotta thank God
I don’t know but last night seemed kinda odd
The spot was hot, the place was packed
They had fat asses wall to wall and back to back
Imagine that, it was a hell of a scene
Either that or it was a hell of a dream, ya heard me?
They had a, few ballers but not that many
A lot of model-type chicks but not that skinny
I mean, one in particular caught my eye
I mean, she gave me a look when I walked by
like – yeah, we about to have some fun here
Her mouth ain’t move but her body sayin ‘come here’
… so I passed the key
And got a ‘Hotel’ suite like Cassidy”
The final nail in the coffin of this single is Myke Diesel’s beat. He’s done some good work in the past, but this track sounds like a beat Lil Jon decided wasn’t good enough and gave away to somebody for free. This single may get over anyway just on the strength of the line-up, but it’s not a strong song. The difference between it and the rest of “Based on a True Story” is that the rest of the tracks aren’t being pushed on radio – in other words they’re all pretty mediocre. Diesel apparently just wasn’t feeling it, as he turns in more subpar beats on songs like “Just Do It,” “Why You Mad,” “Playa Playa” and “Clap” among others. Occasionally he comes correct, but it’s too few and far between. “Got it on Lock” has a dark crunk feel punctuated by heavy ringing bells, and Silkk comes as close to his super-energetic flow of old here as anywhere on the album. “Do the Thing” rips the “Rocky” horns off one more time, but you can hardly go wrong with that sample. “Get That” is his most suave track, and would have actually been a much better choice for the first single, as Silkk’s newly understated flow fits it really well. He’s also credited in the liner notes for the energetic “That’s Just Me,” but this may have been a misprint since at the very beginning Silkk quips “XL the beat is sick nigga!” He also handles the album’s other potential crossover hit “Be There,” which relies heavily on a sample of Spandau Ballet’s “True.” Still knowing the New No Limit, it’s far more likely they’ll push generic thuggery like “We Don’t Dance We Bounce,” if for no better reason than Silkk’s brother P is on it. It certainly won’t be because the latter is hot, the beat is fresh, or Silkk inspired:
“When it comes to this shit, nigga I’m never scared
I make a nigga lose weight, without goin to Jenny Craig
Now I’m from the South, and I don’t know where y’all from shit
You from where I’m from, you don’t play by no dumb shit
I tell a nigga fresh off the bat, I’m a skinny nigga
I ain’t good with liftin weights, but I could lift up a gat
Lift up your hat, this ain’t just rap
This is not speculation my nigga look, this is a fact!
Every chick you try to get, I done already bagged
And every whip you trying to get, I done already crashed”
So Silkk, are all those wrecked automobiles at the New No Limit impound, or is this rap just “Based on a True Story” while not actually following it to the letter? Either way I hope he realizes Jenny Craig references were played out in rap years ago. While this album is marginally competent enough to avoid being terrible, there’s nothing here that suggest Silkk the Shocker has any talent left to take over the rap industry with, nor even any desire to. He’s going through the motions, and sometimes it works, but largely it doesn’t. The only reason this album will sell is based on his past successes, as the few loyal fans he kept during No Limit’s collapse give him one more chance.