Coming from the Twin Cities is hard for an MC. Ever since Atmosphere and the Rhymesayers crew put Minneapolis-St. Paul on the map with their trademark emotional, backpacker-friendly lyricism, the area has become a breeding ground for replication of that sound. Brother Ali, I Self Devine, Eyedea, Mac Lethal, P.O.S., the Doomtree camp, and the Unknown Prophets are all big names that came after Atmosphere’s appealing sound. I’ll be the first to admit that the little Rhymesayers logo on the back of a CD makes me way more likely to pick up a new album. But for the aspiring artist not affiliated with the label and not presenting the same style, life is a little more difficult.
Enter Golden’s “Peddling Medicine,” the Twin Cities’ latest hip hop offering. Golden takes a different approach to finding success, forgetting the exponentially clever, emotional delivery. Well, sort of.
A lot of the songs are rather radio-friendly, and many beats would perfectly complement the requisite jazzy, fun, club vibe of any Black Eyed Peas album. Keep in mind that Golden opened for them during their world tour and that their music director, Printz Board, produced most of Golden’s album. Other accolades include sharing the stage with such watered-down chart toppers as Sean Paul and Chingy
At the same time, Golden throws in his own style of underground silliness here, some mild braggadocio there, and a little touch of street ruggedness on the side. His content exists between Reef the Lost Cauze and the Unknown Prophets, while his delivery reminds me of Big Jess from the latter group meets early Eminem.
The opener, “It Ain’t Me,” acts as a rejection of all the stereotypes given to Golden in the past, including comparisons to Eminem, Vanilla Ice, Pete Nice, MC Serch, Mike D, Slug, El-P, and Aesop Rock. Utilizing a nice Jurassic 5 sample, Golden refutes the unfair labels traditionally applied to white rappers and acknowledges the influence of prior Minnesota acts:
“I thought I’d start off by sayin who I wasn’t
Who I’m never gonna be and now I got ya buggin
And ain’t it somethin how people be hella dumbin
Like, ‘Yo bro you sound like Slim Shady.’ Quit frontin
Is it white or cause I’m tight you say that?
I’m in a town where the Rhymesayers run shit
And kids are like ‘You know Slug?’ Yeah I know Sean, kid”
Opening an album by addressing “all the haters” is a catchy way to begin and may be mentally cathartic for the artist. But it also establishes a relative measure that the listener may use to judge the artist, a relative measure that the listener may not have independently arrived at.
After introductions are made, Golden gets the listener into the hottest 1920s dance club with “Elevator Music.” Calming his guests by waving away the heavy smoke, he shares the spotlight with a single sensual trumpet, finding support in the vocal backing of Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas and in the chorus of intermittently sampled saxophones, thereby forcing the nightclub into frenzied dancing. I returned to this track over and over again and found it hard to stay still every time.
Despite the gorgeous tone set for the album, Golden becomes an angst-filled teen on “Falling.” The verses are average, tolerable fare, but, as if the title doesn’t obviously indicate, the song quickly degenerates into nu-metal moaning:
“Half the crew I used to ride with either skated or faded when fate hit
Some of the best of them didn’t make it
Twenty-five, but I feel like I’m eighty-two
Crazy Jew, who docked up like the Navy do
Du-rag rock locked up like baby do
Only wish I could say to my girl, ‘It’s all gravy boo’
When I look inside myself to see the man I’ve become
I see the child that I was and it’s fuckin me up
And you can catch me
I’m faaaaaling dooowwn
I don’t know where I’m going now
Won’t you heelp mee
I’m caaalling oouut
I don’t know where I am”
WHAT?!?! What the HELL happened here?! One moment I was listening to some semi-tight verses and the next I’m listening to Linkin Park croon angsty garbage at me?! What the shit?? As if that wasn’t bad enough, some repetitive, depressing guitar comes in to really indicate how much Golden’s been listening to Staind lately. This isn’t good music. Anywhere. Not to Black Eyed Peas fans, not to Atmosphere fans. This is just awful.
Golden, however, manages to mildly redeem himself with “So Many Ways,” and more so when he returns to the catchiness of club-oriented tracks like “Peddling Medicine.” Even the backpacker-friendly sound of “The Hustle” is enough to get me back into the album.
That is, until I got to “Feelin You” and “Beneath Your Lies.” The latter is so fantastically terrible that I get angry just writing about it. Here’s an excerpt from “Feelin You”:
“Settle this slow, hot and cold
Stop drop and roll, cock and load
Rock and roll, hip hop and old soul
Flip flops, some socks, and a pack of Old Gold
Late paycheck, cold bus stop vacant
Strawberry red, no way to change it
Watch ya placement, face on the watch is changin
Ways on the block is bakin
Can’t figure why you always come callin at the wrong tiiiiime
But I’m feeelin yooouuu, I’m feeeelllin yoooouuu
And the way you do the things you do
And I don’t know what it is but you always stay on my miiiiind
Cuz I’m feelin yoooouuuu, I’m feeellin yooouuu
I’m feelin you, feelin you”
God, so awful. Almost the exact same formula as “Falling”: basic verses, terrible chorus. Only the cheesy accompanying synth somehow makes it worse this time around.
I feel like I went to a circus and got tricked by some carney into seeing one of the side shows advertised as a donkey riding a unicycle which really turned out to be a dog wearing a party hat. It’s not at all what I wanted to see, and the discrepancy between what I got and what was advertised just pisses me off even more.
And then “Beneath Your Lies.” I don’t even know how to summarize this track. Something like Sting meets U2 meets 80s pop meets angst.
“You jump and I say how hiiiiiiigh do you want me to go…for you, for you
I think I better get down and move on with the show…for you
Too slow…no it’s wayyy toooo faaaast
To grow, you gotta make the roots last
I know what you’re doooin
I can see it in your eeyyeeess
I hear what you are sayyiin
Find the truth beneath yooooouuuuuuurrrr liiiiees”
At this point, I feel like recommending that you buy this album for your little brothers or little sisters who are still listening to the Backstreet Boys or Linkin Park. Or for your parents if they wanted a nice change from their soft rock favorites station. Or maybe I’d give this CD to someone who didn’t know anything about hip hop.
The juxtaposition of beats meant for the club and well-delivered verses makes for a goofy musical amalgamation and defines the space between the silly-sung, Linkin Park-esque choruses. The album might work if it chose between the seriousness of the Unknown Prophets or the silliness of the Black Eyed Peas, but the contradictory natures of the lyrics and the beats make for an awkward listening experience
I feel bad. At first listen, I honestly wanted Golden to succeed. And really, if he hadn’t strayed from his rapid-fire, clever, and emotional delivery, “Peddling Medicine” would have been a solid album. To be fair, it does hit some high notes. There are a few standout tracks that I may have not given enough attention to. But in the end, the overwhelmingly negative feel of the closing tracks outweighs most of the good exhibited earlier in the album and ultimately creates a mediocre character.