Left coasters seem to know how to chill better than anyone else. Their lifestyle is one I’ve envied since first listen to “Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde,” and has since become to me a fable I know I’ll probably never experience. California is generally regarded as the absolute cool-out Mecca, so it’s no wonder their music practically breathes the same lightheartedness of the summer surf. From the Beach Boys to People Under the Stairs, Cali has manufactured more mellow tunes than any other region even knows about.
Even as thickly congested in gangsta rap it has been in the past, people tend to forget that even the most hardcore of the hardcore still know how to rock, bounce and roller skate. After all, Dr. Dre did produce “The Chronic,” Snoop can be found these days on the beach with Pharrell, and X-to-the-Z makes a killing turning dudes’ rides into the talk of Cali.
So along comes West Bound. Three emcees, no particular mission. In true west coast fashion, they’re slicker than your average, but they refuse to put forth the effort to really impress on any level. Emcees with tight flows are often given a free pass for drab penmanship, simply because they sound natural over a kick and a snare. That said, the lyrics on West Bound are utterly simplistic, enough to lose interest at times, but not so much as to be penalized for. Mikey Mo, Abyss and Dap Daniel are far from bad rappers, and they aren’t necessarily bad lyricists either. They do sound like they wrote half the album on a drop-top ride to the studio, passing a piece around with the instrumentals on crank.
Abyss and Dapper Dan support their own cause, combining for all but one beat on their self-titled debut, a twanging instrumental producer Spoon bases off the intro to The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Overall the production is spotty; one moment you’re falling asleep to “The Session,” the next you’re getting down to the dripping cyber-funk of “Psychedelic,” but an old school breakbeat like that of “Hip Hop” helps keep the album lively.
West Bound are as efficient as Peyton Manning’s quarterback rating when it comes to putting together an LP, avoiding those amateur risks that plague most debuts. In totally preventing making fools of themselves, however, “West Bound” loses where so many other Cali-based albums win, in having a little (if not too much) fun. There’s no J5 harmonization, no Hiero humor; it’s pretty much devoid of any jokes at all. They comment on the state of hip-hop (“Hip Hop,” “Rap Is”), assure us of their status (“Never Back Down,” “Ride Out”), and toke up (“The Session”), but that’s middle of the road type shit, not exactly topics we can revel in.
There’s nothing on “West Bound” you don’t already have on your iPod, but of all the bad music one sifts through in a lifetime, it isn’t hard to appreciate emcees who don’t take themselves too seriously and can rap on beat. It’s a safer record than it is the traditionally party-oriented or G-funk brand, but West Bound represent here, even if that’s all they can say for themselves.