Hitting you upside the head with another mixtape from an upcoming Southern artist like Homie the Clown did so many years ago is DJ Smallz & Mr. Grand with “The Grand Opening.” Much like that character didn’t play (or, more accurately, Homie didn’t play “that”), these fellas are serious about the paper. But unfortunately, the music here is sort of like the repeated blows rained down upon the Clown’s unknowing victimsâ€”slightly annoying but nonetheless comical at first, but painfully obnoxious after more than an hour.
And yes, we have officially reached a point in rap where the inclusion of 26 tracks can no longer be seen as a bonus, but rather as a clever way for CD player manufacturers to make us wear out our fast forward buttons faster (and thus spurring more buying activity sooner). Either that or Mr. Grand is somehow trying to convince us of his creative abundance, even if (ironically) he’s playing the same three chords the whole way through (so to speak, or course, as I’m sure no actual instruments are used in the making of “Grand”)
To give credit where it’s due, the mixtape opening features a wicked FDR quote and a cinematic beat that harkens back to Giorgio Moroder’s Scarface score. Yes, DJ Smallz (of “Southern Smoke”) knows how to provide a good mix of Southern club beats and low bumping car hoppers. And Grand has a decent vocal presence along with a lisp that’s so slight it is easily overlooked, but actually makes his empty boasts charming at times. Call it an aural manifestation of the deliciously hypocritical rap tradition of unstoppable invincibility with the fragility that lurks just under the surface (just like any decent comic book hero, I suppose).
The problem is that boasting and bragging, unless you’re a 14-year-old that dreams of living large, is mostly just plain boring. Focusing not on how to cleverly flip hood rich tales of struggling and striving, Mr. Grand and his ilk seem to think that simply reciting what they possess, along with occasionally revealing how they got it, is sufficient for entertainment (not to mention inspiration, which as a realist I understand is not really any artist’s role). It’s not.
So for my next few reviews I’m thinking of just cutting and pasting previous commentaries on this same stale stew. Excuse the lack of references to the actual product here, but it’s really not worth it to single out or even mention the inane choruses or the rote topics. Yes, it’s all been done (better) before. Yes, it’s all tried-and-true and so does actually satisfy on more than a few levels early and often. It has a visceral quality and a (alternately daunting and hollow) thug mindstate, sending the occasional shot of adrenaline through the spine (especially for someone who still remembers his shit kicking high school days in a small town). Scarface is still everyone’s hero, but I’m thinking we should really switch it to Frank Lopez. Or even Manny. Was it all so simple then? All I know is that I miss the Biz.