To be perfectly honest, I didn’t think there was much potential left in the artist known as Cold 187um or Big Hutch when I came across his “From Pomona With Love” mixtape last year. As far as running into an old acquaintance and sharing memories over a couple of cold beers, it was a completely satisfactory experience. But Hutch getting things done career-wise in this day and age? I didn’t think so.
Less than a year later he’s officially back in the game with a concept album on an indie label that has 20 years of experience. Home to Insane Clown Posse and a number of affiliates, Psychopathic Records is expanding its roster beyond its core clientele, also in an attempt to explore the capacity of artists the music industry has long lost interest in. Without a doubt Cold 187um is a man of many talents, a pioneer of gangsta rap both as a producer and rapper. But can he handle an ambitious project without a particularly solid solo track record?
For starters he is alleviated of the responsibility to create a soundtrack. “The Only Solution” is scored with beats from the Psychopathic vaults. The storyline was developed between him and Insane Clown Posse’s Violent J, while the lyrics are all credited to Hutch. Establishing the rapper as the Psychopathic Assassin, the album tells the story of a contract killer on a mission to avenge the murder of his father who was killed by his uncle over money. By the end of the album we’ve witnessed several murders, while the killer’s personal vendetta remains unsolved. Each song relates an episode in a journey that takes him across the country as he fulfills his obligations towards his employer (simply referred to as the Company). His hits take place in different environments – the church, the mob, and even politics.
These are sufficient ingredients for an entertaining plot, and to a certain degree things fall in line nicely. Events unfold conclusively, settings are described, motives explained. “3 Brothers” takes us to the Detroit suburb of Ecorse where the assassin is assigned to take out a fraternal trio of common criminals, and Mike E. Clark’s early ’90s throwback track is met by 187 with an opening Beastie Boys reference: “Now here’s a little story that I have to tell / about three bad brothers I’m sendin’ to hell…” In “Judgement Day” the target is, quite fittingly, a corrupt judge. The dark, hard-hitting R.O.C. production for “An Offer He Can’t Refuse” could also originate from the Psycho+Logical-Records catalogue while Hutch takes down another shady figure who thought he was untouchble, this time a New York mobster.
So far so good. But as we all know, storytelling is an art that requires some finesse, and with his simple and straight approach Hutch just doesn’t show off enough narrative skills when they’re supposed to carry the entire album. In terms of characterization, “The Only Solution” makes sure to describe the pivotal point when the young boy sees his father die. It also depicts him as someone who never even had a chance to take a different path considering he killed his first victim when he was ten. But that gruesome background acts as such a strong driving factor that character development isn’t deemed necessary. Cold 187um lives up to his name in the most literal sense here, he’s killing ’em in cold blood.
That might very much be the idea behind this project, standing as a tribute to one of the idols of Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, who remade Above The Law’s “Murder Rap” in 2002, the same “Murder Rap” whose Quincy Jones/’Ironside’ siren sounds every time the Psychopathic Assassin strikes. “The Only Solution” takes Gregory Hutchinson back to the early days of his career when he was Cold 187um of Above The Law and the star of songs like “Another Execution,” “Untouchable” and “Murder Rap.”
That said, “The Only Solution” is no match for “Livin’ Like Hustlers.” Even as the Assassin’s timeouts “Layin’ Low” and “L.A.” recall smooth cuts off ATL’s debut like “Ballin'” or “Flow On,” Cold 187’s Psychopathic debut (like pretty much everything he’s done since the turn of the millennium) is in every aspect inferior. Still I think the project deserves recognition if not respect from rap circles (even as it’s maligned by the ever peculiar juggalos, ICP’s ardent fanbase). After a musically very shaky start (“Born 2 Kill,” “Job Well Done”), the album picks up steam and even heads for a more than decent finale with “Interrogation” and “Alive & Free.” There’s some indication that this is one of those sagas that continue, and whether it’s as the Psychopathic Assassin or in some other form or fashion, Big Hutch clearly has some unfinished business.