various artists :: Life Source Presents... The Package :: Life Source Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

Coming straight out of Knoxville in the county of Fort Knox, Tennessee. Already the haters will be saying, "Tennessee - the fuck? That's bamma." You didn't know that Eightball & MJG are from Orange Mound though did ya? That's right. Tennessee is not all about Memphis and country singers with a cornball country twang; they got some real hip-hop brewing in the Durty South right chea.

The real question about "The Package" then is not whether it's hip-hop or not - it's about whether they percolated something strong and black or if it's a weak cup of bilge water you wouldn't feed to your plants. Well that depends - there's so many different artists on this compilation that it's not all bad or all good. For example the lead single "Tho Dem Elbowz" from TN1 actually sounds like a weak attempt to follow Luda's "Southern Hospitality" even if 'bows has become commonplace slang. On the other hand, the awkwardly named Black Market Twan D has a really sharp flow on the following track "The Robbery/Play This." Conceptually it's tight as fuck - he raps about both themes and switches back and forth between storylines and beats at will. Twan D's definitely an unheralded Tennessee talent to be checking for.

Some of the other artists on here have viable talent for rap and just aren't presented in a great light - the simply named Rodney being one of them. He's got a pleasant voice and plenty of brash attitude - kind of like a mixture of Tela and Devin the Dude. The problem is that producer Life Source doesn't have beats of the Rap-A-Lot caliber. It's not that he is incompetent - the tracks are obviously professional - it's just that they come across plainly. There are a lot of keyboards used throughout and they seem to follow high-low or minor-major; just different pitch and tempo. The drum tracks are on time, but do not resonate. On Rodney's "Sincerely" the sound is especially flat - it sounds like number two pencils being slapped together. There is nothing orchestral or majestic about nearly any of this music.

The result is that neither side wins and both suffer. Mediocre rappers like the Kountry Boyz sound like a bad imitation of Three 6 Mafia on "Abhahoohah," and possibly dope rappers like Mr. Knoxville can't shine on cheesy synths and tinny hi-hats like the ones heard on "War." By coincidence or sheer blind luck Life Source actually hits pay dirt a couple of times: the excellent "I Don't Wanna Die" by 5 Ft. Giant and the previously mentioned Twan D track being fine examples. On a CD selling for $13 before shipping though, this just isn't good enough. Knoxville is obviously loaded with talent, but this "Package" needed to brew in the pot a bit longer cause it's just not hot or strong enough to wake you up.

Music Vibes: 3 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 4 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 3.5 of 10

Originally posted: April 8, 2001