As relative unknowns, it’s surprising how The Product’s debut album probably made it to the top of plenty a rap fan’s most anticipated albums list in 2005. A few months delayed, The Product hit 2006 with the potential of being one of the year’s best albums due to the fact that Scarface makes up one third of the group. Aside from the obvious benefit of having Brad Jordan drop at least one verse on each track, The Product intrigued fans because ‘Face hand-picked and coached The Product as his own personal team. Speculation of a “new” version of the Geto Boys was one of the first thoughts that fans had, especially considering the excitement Face exhibited every time he brought up his latest project. Mississippi’s Young Malice is a definite newcomer, adding to the mystery and anticipation of the project, while San Fran’s Willie Hen already had one album under his belt and popularity as both a pimp and a rapper in the bay. The unlikely pairing of the hands down king of the south, a hungry newcomer, and a pimp almost sounded like the latest Kool Keith concept album, but definitely had the potential to deliver a classic. Since the album has already dropped, there is no need to speculate anymore â€“ The Product is a quality release but nowhere near the classic promised.
The first point to make clear is that Willie Hen and Young Malice are not even in the same league as Scarface when it comes to lyrics and delivery. Granted, Face is a legend and top 5 on many people’s list, but this time around his supporting cast sounds more like the latest incarnation of the Facemob instead of the new school Geto Boys. Young Malice is obviously the youngest and most inexperienced rapper on the project and his inadequacies shine even brighter due to the fact. Willie Hen is a more refined emcee, both lyrically and stylistically, but still gets outshined every time by Face’s overbearing presence. To their credit, Willie Hen and Young Malice both sound like they are well aware of who they are sharing the mic with and the magnitude of the opportunity they have been given. On every track the emcees sound like they are stepping their game up and trying to mimic if not match Face’s verses both in substance and delivery. The problem is that without having to try, Scarface drops verses with more substance, style and conviction than they can song after song. Take each rapper’s respective lines on “G Type:”
Young Malice: “My momma screaming “Get that weed off my coffee table!”
I’m the man of the house, I need a cash flow, something stable
I got a blessing coming, from all the good I did
Made good on most of my words, look at this hood I’m in”
Willie Hen: “When I rap the south, the Midwest, and the east coast listen
My flows are good for the environment and the ecosystem
I know you like the battle raps shit but please don’t diss ‘him
Or end up the next rapper that come up missing”
Scarface: “I guess that’s how the game goes
Once you get in, you get out
Don’t stick around cuz you ain’t got time to change clothes”
Though in this song Young Malice gives Face a run for his money with a solid verse, Face’s lines convey more with less effort. Playing second fiddle to Scarface doesn’t doom Young Malice and Willie Hen as they do manage to drop relevant verses time and time again. The album’s concept sounds like it was directed by Face as the tracks do at times delve into the straight gangsta shit (“2 Real,” “G-Type”) but tend to focus on the social issues Face has always addressed (“Not a Word,” “In the Hood”).
The production is mostly handled by West Coast vet Tone Capone with Face, J. Bido, and Alchemist contributing also. Tone Capone’s production definitely fits the mood of the album and is in line with Face’s usual output. The slow, driving and bass heavy tracks are layered with sparse piano keys, and strings. Face’s contributions to the album are solid, though unimpressive. Alchemist’s sole track is the aforementioned “G-Type” and infuses the album with a small taste of East Coast soul.
“One Hunid” is a decent effort from all involved. While not on the same level of any Face solo work or Geto Boys CD, it has its moments and finds Face spitting with his usual energy and passion. Face definitely has a positive influence on both Willie Hen and Young Malice as the rappers sound like they are spitting with added energy and hunger. Both show flashes of brilliance in subject matter and delivery, justifying why Face chose them to round out his inner circle, but they both also need more time to refine their style. Having Face on the album is a mixed blessing as it is an automatic seal of authenticity but also highlights the shortcomings both rappers have. With time, The Product could definitely be a big force in the music industry. As it stands, it’s still definitely worth peeping for more than just Face’s verses. The album’s content exceeds the banal topics addressed in most albums nowadays and despite being outperformed by face, both Willie Hen and Young Malice deliver good performances. The production and tempo of the album may be too slow for today’s rap fan but its deep bass and funk fit Brad Jordan’s vision.