DJ Next :: Back to the Grill, Again ::
as reviewed by Damon Brown

Mix tapes are a dime a dozen, but not many rep Beantown. Boston's DJ Next gets an A+ for humor -- the cover of "Back to the Grill, Again" (named for a classic posse cut) has hanging turkeys and Cornish hens, subtitled "Live(r) At The Barbecue."

The cuts are mostly from cypher cats like Celph Titled, Birthwrite and Aesop Rock, and a few of the tracks work. Unfortunately, the problem starts in the beginning where two psuedo remakes of "Straight Outta Compton" and "Bad Boy For Life" end up a little overcooked. "Straight Outta Boston" (Truth Elemental, Karma and Esoteric) and "Fucked Up For Life" (Rokone and Immortal Technique) are good for the first 30 seconds, but it's like someone redoing Rakim's "My Melody": it just reminds you how good or memorable the original was.

It's not that every track is bad, just that they're average. Many of the cuts just blur together like a coloring book with no lines. Not all is lost, however, with cuts like the brooding Blackalicious, Latyrx and Life Savas song "Rhude Island Rhode Rage" or the hilariously corny "Live (at the Barbecue) Freestyle" with Slug and Eyedea. DJ Next even gets "commercial" for a minute with the Fakts1 Remix of M.O.P.'s "Ante Up," which, despite being the radio mix, holds it own against the incredible original.

Even better, C-Rayz Walz keeps it fresh with Breeze Evaflowin and Stelf Index on the top-notch "DJ Next Up." Breaking it down "The Symphony"-style over a knockin' baseline courtesy of Stelf Index himself, this cut shows how tight the whole album coulda been. Peep C-Rayz's flow:

"Stronghold - here to reflect each other
It's elementary, we've been doin' it since 6th grade brother
Ask your mother; your pop used to bite my rhymes
We keep it goin', beat you to death with stop signs
Hot lines, after you get ate
It's no peace, be wanted in ten states on tracks and freeways
Get it together; I spit eight, kill sixteen
I'm still dirty, just now my money's clean
My big faces just came out the washin' machine
I would write for yaw, but you don't think that fast
I'm bicoastal, smoke crews and dry up ya vocals
Look ma, no hands! I'll still choke ya
You'll get slashed like the wrath of a Samurai
I keep it movin' when I stand still, like Jamiroquai"

Some of the beats are pretty tight, especially when one considers that the rappers themselves produced most of the cuts. Exile's "E-Z" with Minister Ref, Lokey and Shiz has a nice Beatnutty beat, while Aesop Rock‘s horny (as in trumpet) "Milkcrate Full of Freestyle" should get plenty of rotation on sample alone. Another standout is Apathy, Romen Rok and Alias's "Nextclusive Barbecue Sauce." Apathy is hilarious over a fast-paced, gritty beat:

"I'm takin' out the trash like I get allowance for it
My brain's processing data, deep knowledge analyst
Gettin' paid like liquor stores on college campuses
Brain cells swell like the flames Hell contains
My shit's goin' gold like Nintendo Zelda games
If yaw try to step to me, I'm looking at you skeptically
You probably won't get far, like a retard on Jeopardy
You want to start beef? Then you better call a truce
Or you'll fall off like Bishop in the last scene of "Juice" (ahhhhh!)
And I don't give a fuck what you're doin' to the beats
Yaw can never burn me, like Lucifer at the beach
I'm too hot, even if got some block shots
Cats won't believe I'm really dead like Tupac
I'm hiding out in Boston, they'll dig up my coffin
And bug when they find it's the body of Andy Kaufman"

The biggest strength of the LP is the variety. There's about thirty motherfunkin' MCs on this piece -- including Bostonites Ed. O.G. and Guru -- with a different producer for almost all 24 tracks. There's bound to be something everyone likes, perhaps even the previously-dissed rap remakes. However, with superior cuts such as "DJ Next Up" and "Nextclusive Barbecue Sauce," it's easy to see what the album could have been. Weak cuts hold this album down like a staple -- and not in a good way. Hopefully some better flava will be coming the next time we go back to the grill. Again.

Music Vibes: 6 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6 of 10

Originally posted: August 6, 2002