I was immediately confused by “Make It Hot.” Did I press play on an Edo.G album by mistake? No. I double checked. This is indeed an album from former pop rap superstar Candyman, the L.A. rapper brought to prominence through the production wizardry of the late Johnny J. In 1990 everybody was “Knockin’ Boots” with the two, and as legend has it, the duo traveled all around the world and back again off that single and the debut album J produced. Perhaps John B. Shaffer III let that success go to his head. He didn’t work with J on his sophomore album nor any of the others that followed, and his career took an inexorable slide into irrelevance.
The final proverbial nail hammered into the coffin before Candyman’s career was buried was called “Knockin’ Boots 2001: A Sex Odyssey.” After not having a single chart since 1991, and not having an album chart at ALL since his debut, you’d think Shaffer would have figured out something was wrong with his musical approach. Instead he took the the ill-advised step of producing his fourth and fifth albums (this is the latter) himself. The only thing that could have brought him anywhere close to the heights of his early career was burying the hatchet with Johnny J, or barring that at least giving up a few royalty points to some hot producers to resurrect his career. Even if he was unwilling to do either of these things, ridiculous interludes like “Tennis Shoe Pimpin'” needed to come nowhere near a studio album.
There’s a palpable sense of desperation to calling this album “Knockin’ Boots 2001.” It is an undeniable acknowledgment that Candyman is no better than a one hit wonder in both pop and rap music, and that over a decade later he’s still chasing that fleeting fame trying to get a second taste. Unfortunately everything about the title song is completely wrong. With his deeper vocal tone the boyish charm he once had is completely gone, and without it cringe-worthy lyrics like “I’m harder than Chinese arithmetic” float to the surface, popping like a smelly fart when they arrive. He’s not even macking on this track — he’s practically begging a woman to come home as he cooks her dinner and draws her a bath. I’m not saying he’s wrong to show a lady respect, but could he at least have done so without such a cliched R&B song featuring corny (and borderline racist) raps?
For reasons only Shaffer would understand there are two versions of a song called “The Finest” on this album, and while I hate to be rude there’s nothing fine about either of them. The moment Candyman says “and you don’t stop” I really wish he would. What’s even weirder about this is that I think he’s rapping about being down with Jesus? It’s one of those Faith + 1 moments where simply change any reference to “girl” or “baby” to God’s only begotten son and release it as gospel music. I wasn’t entirely sure until about three minutes in when he said “The love of God is what’s missing/it can bring us all together like my grandmother’s kitchen.” Yup, he’s making love to an omnipotent deity. Now that’s some BIG ass boots to knock.
There aren’t many times I feel compelled to quote from Dr. Zoidberg, but as it pertains to “Knockin’ Boots 2001” I have only one thing to say to Shaffer: “Your music’s bad and you should feel bad.” It’s not just the lack of Johnny J that hurt Candyman, it’s the lack of having anything interesting to say. A good producer was able to paper over the deficiencies of his entirely one-dimensional raps, but Candyman is neither a good rapper nor good producer. On the level of “worst things I’ve ever heard” though this isn’t even in the Scuba Chicken or IceJJFish ballpark. It’s banal, it’s boring, but in its badness it’s still mildly annoying at best. It feels like the album you buy from the opening act at a concert to be supportive and then promptly never listen to again. Few have fallen harder from higher levels than Candyman.