Depending on what side of the fence you choose to sit on, the inclusion of “bling bling” into the Oxford Dictionary is either the most glorious, or indeed the most tragic event in hip-hop’s storied and tempestuous history. Whatever the case, its ubiquitous presence in the contemporary lexicon of youth and hipsters worldwide is undeniable. The man we have to thank, or conversely blame for this peculiar phenomenon is of course the irrepressible B.G., whose single of the same name exploded at the height of Cash Money Records’ siege on the rap industry- epitomizing the outrageous love for excess and hedonistic indulgence that Cash Money was (unfairly) known for.
Truth be told, I have, as I do for all the Hot Boys save for Turk, a genuine soft spot for B.G.’s music. I own this dude’s entire discography, and truly do appreciate each release. Stop sleeping- Gizzle’s syrupy, somnambulistic drawlllll is hypnotic to a fault, plus the fact that he’s always had a great ear for beats has lent much to his work. Ultimately, however, B.G.’s greatest strength has always been the conviction and ingenuity which drips from each verse he delivers- far from the wanton materialistic drivel that plagued his single choices, B.G.’s narratives tend to revolve around poignant, morose portraits of the Magnolia Projects, chilling odes to fallen soldiers ad harsher times, delivered with gutwrenching honesty and straightforwardness.
So how’s the record? In all earnesty, B.G.’s first release after his divorce with Cash Money (a split that was prompted, quite humorously, by monetary disputes) was a hit-and-miss affair which boasted a litany of bangers interspersed with severely subpar moments. From the get-go this disc appears to promise a smoother ride- the opening intro produced by Hush is standard N’awlins funk, complete with the stuttered claps and bass-soaked bump that NO rap has become renowned for. The following track, “Geezy Where U Been”, in a similar fashion to Weezy’s “I Miss My Dawgs”, attempts to illuminate the befuddling circumstances that have befallen the Cash Money empire of late. “My Life” gloats with a Timbo-lite symphony of bouncy synths, bass thumps and staccato claps as B.G.’s leads the listener further into the biographical journey captured in his previous work.
The first single is always a dangerous proposition. When taken into perspective, one realises that the single is representative of an opportunity to win new audiences and of course the unsavoury possibility of alienating old fans. Thankfully, B.G.’s first single, “I Want It” is a certified banger. With a surprisingly ill track by DJ Smurf of Ying Yang Twinz fame, the track oozes a roll-down-the-street-in-a-big-truck-while-ice-grilling-everyone menace that is sexy as hell. Blessed with a neck-wrecking bump and nervous tambourine shakes, this song should get B.G. some new advocates, provided he continues to get spins on a large level (I saw the video debut on BET a few months ago).
From here, though, the album starts to dip. “Don’t Talk To Me” starts optimistically, as B.G., in his trademark honesty admits “I fell off like a bad bag of dope, ain’t nobody wanna holla!”. He then proceeds to speak on his return to grace over a tremendously disappointing production by KLC of Beats By Tha Pound/ Medicine Men. You’d think that KLC would lace Gizzle with a banger considering his track record of late (especially with David Banner), but the beat is flat and droning. The drudgery is accentuated by a hapless hook. “Get Wild With It” with the Ying Yang Twinz is a reasonable enough attempt at cashing in on the crunk fervour, but haven’t we had enough of this already? The album is saved temporarily by “Factory”, as B.G. and his Chopper City brethren (including his younger brother Hakim) wax poetic on their cashflow over a melodic and infectious beat infused with an entrancing keyboard pattern. KLC fares somewhat better on a promising-looking collabo with Big Gipp “Do What You Wanna Do”, but ultimately the track lacks bombast and feels as pedestrian as its atrocious hook- “My niggaz, my bitches, do what you wanna do/ Hustle, strip, shake, pimp, do what you wanna do/ From the north, to the south, to the east and west, do what you wanna do/”.
Thankfully, the album does not fall off completely, as Atlanta kingpin T.I. drops in to infuse the album with some much-needed flair and panache, his elegant cadence bleeding all over the guitar plucks of “Street N***a”. How has no-one come up with this collabo yet? B.G. and TI’s laissez faire, too-cool-for-you delivery is flawless, and the track is unquestionably one of my favourites so far this year. Of further interest is the collabo with the late Soulja Slim (who is, beyond any reasonable doubt, one of the most underrated artists of our time, and I’m not just saying that because he’s left us), “Like That”, an upbeat piano-driven tribute to the women who get Magnolia Souljas sprung.
At the end of the day, it’s not that this album is bad. I could not reasonably make that statement, particularly when there are flashes of brilliance that emerge. However, one invariably feels spectacularly dissatisfied when the record is placed in perspective- B.G. sounds confused: attempts at exorcising his personal demons are interrupted by feeble attempts at crunkdom. Shots of reality are chased by appallingly average, even irritating bouts of braggadocio, some rendered even more unlistenable by terrible hooks. I approached this record expecting an album of struggle, vulnerability and conflict- and while B.G. obviously makes some attempt at this, the record is tragically devoid of the turbulence and propulsive anguish of his previous work. As such the album is too uninteresting and tepid for a B.G. endeavour; which is a shame, considering it could have been something great.