Take a little bit of “The Mack,” a little bit of hip-hop, a little bit of Bishop Don ‘Magic’ Juan, stir it all up and “Just Add Water” – the result is a potent brew that’s totally Suga Free. Going back almost 15 years Pomona, California’s resident kingpin of pimpin’ has been spittin’ game to the hoes. He’s an exceptionally sexually active hip-hop star who believes in getting the P for free for himself, then selling it at a profit to everybody else. Though he shares a passion for the female form with fellow California artist Too $hort, their styles couldn’t be more different. Todd Shaw casts a misogynistic but generally harmless eye at female companionship, using “bitch” as both a term of endearment and a reminder that he’s alpha male both in the rap game and the bedroom. Dejuan Rice is not nearly so nice – if he’s using the word bitch it’s in the contest “bitch better have my money!” Prudes and conservatives may disagree with the profession he endorses lyrically, but it’s still the world’s oldest profession.
There’s something different this time around about Suga Free though, and to get straight to the point it’s the company that he keeps. Traditionally Suga Free has been known for the Cali love he gives and receives, resulting in multiple cameos with DJ Quik, Kurupt, Snoop Dogg and Kokane over the years along with the occasional surprise appearance with underground favorites like Bishop Lamont and MURS. For the first time ever though Suga has added new flavor to the mix courtesy of his new label Mr. Capone-E plays a prominent role on Suga Free’s new album – he’s the featured guest on 4 out of 16 songs (we’re not counting the intro, interlude, or untitled bonus track that’s not actually a song). That’s a healthy 25% chunk of real estate. Fellow HPE artists Mr. Criminal and Mr. Silent appear on “Out Here,” while HPE newcomer Miss Lady Pinks is on “Fuck With Me.” That brings the Hi Power presence on Suga Free’s album up to almost 38%. Before these stats are misconstrued it’s not meant to convey they water down Suga Free too much, but it’s an unprecedented flavor not previously tasted on any Suga Free release. It works well on “In California” though as SF and MC-E trade off verses:
Mr. Capone-E: “Suga Free’s on some new, Hi Power movement
Mr. Capone-E with the E and together we’re just, doin it
Pomona, East L.A., South Central and Watts
Back to the HPE, open up shop
Hienas low, out of Southsiders and the Easters
Crips, Bloods, all mens, all paperchasers
Ridin low with the dough bringin the West back fo’ sho’
’64 Impala dub wheels for the car show”
Suga Free: “And I remember when they tried to BAN rap, man look at us now
Cain’t stop, won’t stop, hip-hop, who laughin now?
Palm trees, fat rims, khaki suits, chicken and waffles
Sunsets to die for, plenty of smoke and poppin bottles
So HELLO Hi Power! Paparazzi, TMZ
Reality shows, your favorite stars, tell me who you wanna be?
110, 105, 91 to Riverside
Back to downtown L.A. to the garment district lookin fly
Hair done, minty breath, I walk with pimpin in my step
Watch what I do, where I go, I just let the positivity flow”
The whistling G-Funk backdrop and crooned chorus makes this the perfect song to drop the top down and ride around to – too bad I’m reviewing this album in late November. The typical Suga Free mack game is in effect throughout this CD, although it’s given a little (appropriate) AutoTune flavor on the song “Mean Green.” There can be no doubt that funkadeliciousness is in effect though on “Still Rather Give U My Bitch,” with the synthadelic swing and Suga Free’s stream of consciousness verbal delivery: “Motherfucker turn around and leave me alone! Nigga, I ain’t scared when I’m home alone/I got a tec-9 nigga it go straight to yo’ dome/From yo’ knee bone, to yo’ ankle bone, to yo’ shoulder bone, to yo’ elbow, to the hell no!” Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether Suga Free is rapping or just talking like a pimp, but for his long time fans, that’s exactly the flavor that Suga Free should have – there’s nothing sweet about his pimpin’.
In conclusion “Hi Power Pimpin'” is another quality album in Suga Free’s catalog, though it’s not greater than his previous classics like “Street Gospel” or “The New Testament.” It’s also hard to ignore the prominent role that his new Hi Power affiliates play – again they don’t detract from or lessen the impact of Suga Free’s raps but they’re an unexpected element. Considering there’s only one AMG cameo on “She Choose Up” and there are no guest appearances from Quik, Snoop or any of his other regular West coast homies his new label may be a SLIGHT detriment if they can’t pay out for the 16 bars from these rap stars. Perhaps Suga Free should dip into his own stash of pimp cash to bring them back – their contributions give Suga Free’s albums that little extra dose that balances out his sometimes rambling rap style. Overall Suga Free’s long-time supporters will appreciate “Hi Power Pimpin'” but first timers should try a different CD.