Doesn’t DJ Khaled look ever so slightly like Action Bronson on the cover of this double disc release? A little paler, a little more plump, and a little bit bushier on the beard and they’d be twinzies. That doesn’t matter though because we’ve got some “Street Heat” to review on disc two. Not just any “Street Heat” mind you, this is CERTIFIED street heat – so says Brick Squad Monopoly and Mizay Entertainment. The latter may not ring a bell, but you should know the former from both Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka Flame among others.
I recently got into a passionate debate with one of the readers of RR on our official Facebook page over whether or not critics who aren’t from the South can give fair reviews to rappers from the South. Personally I’ve always felt that growing up in the Midwest gave me an opportunity for equal exposure to all regions of the country – I grew up with Geto Boys, Public Enemy and Digital Underground all sharing equal airplay in my car’s tape deck. To me there’s just as much opportunity for Bun B, Killer Mike, Big Boi or T.I. to drop a timeless rap classic as Nas or Kendrick Lamar. I feel absolutely no bias for or against the South.
The reason this debate becomes so passionate is because of the kind of rappers featured on “Street Heat.” There’s a distinctive subgenre of Southern hip-hop, often called trap music, which really doesn’t sit comfortably side by side with the lyricism of “Trouble Man” or artistry of “Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors.” Supporters of trap music will defend it to the death, and they’re entirely within their right to do so, just as people who like horrorcore or gangsta rap will stand up for their style. And to be fair there ARE times when trap rap can be entertaining. The style relies a lot on heavy beats and a charismatic delivery, and even Gucci Mane’s biggest critics can admit that at times he rises above his own limitations. A good car stereo with lots of bass serves trap well.
The fact remains that when Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka Flame are the high water mark for a subgenre, the tide recedes and leaves behind artists named Dae Dae, Suga Shane, Young Joey and Wooh Da Kid. People who are accused of “not getting the South” usually get it for not being able to relate to artists like these. Take OJ Da Juiceman’s “Wea Ya Been” for example. The entire first verse tries to rhyme everything with the word “money,” which is not only annoying after about 4 bars, it shows just how little depth there is to his lyricism. There’s nothing wrong with the beat, and Wooh’s diction is better than many of his lyrical contemporaries in trap, but I never need to hear this song again. The problem isn’t the topic matter per se, it’s the lack of making the topic interesting. Selling drugs, making money, fucking hot bitches and driving expensive cars should be exciting. Wooh somehow manages to make all of that both boring and monotonous.
If “Street Heat” represents everything in the statement “people who aren’t from the South don’t get the South” stands for, call me guilty as charged. The problem is that this album drags down people who aren’t even from the traditional trap geography of the map – YG Hootie hails from California but “West Hannin (What’s Happenin’)” is no better than the rest of this CD. Oddly enough I’m happy about that though, because it advocates for my contention that this whole idea the North doesn’t get the South is nonsense. Maybe the North doesn’t get trap music at times, but the genre itself is rife with self-parody and a lack of awareness about its own artistic merit. The album is comprised of artists hopeful to copy Gucci Mane’s success on his own imprint, and much like when No Limit started churning out an album a week, there was no way to maintain a high artistic standard – or even a low one. You churn out product. That’s not unlike the trapping philosophy of drug sales – nobody cares about the quality of the product, they just want their high, so keep pushing dope and making money. If there’s one thing I don’t relate to, it’s any rapper anywhere in the world who doesn’t care about their end product – and it sounds like 90% of the rappers here don’t care.