Houston’s very own Wine-O has a fairly interesting back story – aside from the usual got shot, got rich tale, he actually got his foot in the door of hip hop through ‘Spiritual Rap’ (he found his salvation in Christianity, but refuses to call it ‘Christian Rap’). Well, fast forward a few years, and this album is pretty much as far removed from ‘Spiritual Rap’ as you could imagine. Clearly, one thing is on Wine-O’s mind – money. The result is a well-produced album by a naturally talented MC – but also the most calculated ‘music-by-numbers’ album I’ve heard for years.

In fact, the last album that I thought was this cynically put-together was the Jadakiss LP ‘Kiss of Death’ – and ‘I Hear You Talking Behind My Back’ is similar in pigeon-holing listeners’ tastes, attempting to cater to them individually in order to boost sales. I’m going to leave the moral issue aside – we all have our opinions, but the issue for me is more to do with how successful a strategy this is. And, lest we forget, many an artist has used this tactic in the past – even some of our most revered favourite MC’s have been subjected to this by their record labels. The irony is that Wine-O allegedly self-produces much of the album, and puts the music out through his own label – so he really can’t blame anyone else but himself. Such a single-minded focus would almost be admirable, and when the only thing on someone’s mind is cash – and enough listeners actually purchase the music without a gun being held to their head! – then you could just sit back and admire the whole process from a distance.

The album itself is solidly formulated – Wine-O himself has the deepest baritone voice I’ve ever heard (imagine Barry White rapping), and the usual gimmicky ad-libs: his being a never-heard-before guttural ‘Huurrgh'(!). His flow is pleasing and the lyrical game is good enough for the kind of music he makes. As for the music, there are very few complaints there – unfortunately there is little information about who produced what, although as mentioned before the MC himself produces quite a bit. There are a wide variety of beats, and although some are cheesy, some are inspired. All in all, a quality music experience – for big systems in bigger cars, in particular.

Right – now for my attempt to list the categories into which we are placed. Who knows, I might even provide the first written blueprint for future rappers! We’ve got: street thugs; stupid dance crazes; bling thugs; belly dancing strip-pole anthems; ghetto thugs; Jeezy-style motivation music; addressing playa-haters; woman speaking/singing in French for ‘foreign markets’; political reportage; song for the ladeez; chuck in some Japanese for that market; car-banging rider music… I charge 10% commission on anyone who uses this blueprint now – well if Wine-O can get rich…

So, in summary: callous album with strong music, solid MC, but absolutely no feeling whatsoever. Well, no – not quite. The annoying thing is that track number three, ‘Get Money’, is a really good song on every level. Musically, it is superb – and Wine-O actually gets out of his recliner to make a real effort and naturally talk about the things in his life. Just for one song, he’s not trying to hustle us, or play us, or convince us to buy into something – he’s just being himself, and it works. Why couldn’t he make more songs like this? It would help his cause no end – he could actually be a pretty solid artist who I could genuinely recommend. Shame, but he’s rich now – so he doesn’t really care what we think anymore. After all, when you’re buying stakes in oil companies, you’ve probably moved on from hip hop for good.

Wine-O :: I Hear You Talkin' Behind My Back
6Overall Score