Backstab Projects :: Kingpin 2001 :: Fenkell Avenue Productions
as reviewed by Andrew Matson

Think you got it hard? Try being an aspiring rapper like Backstab, who is white and from Detroit. He's got the disadvantage of being perhaps forever shrouded in the shadow of another white kid from Detroit who happens to sell trillions of albums a year. It sucks for Backstab that he will always be regarded by his race and location before he will be recognized for skills, because he's good at what he does and deserves a listen.

The first full track is called "I'm Ill" and as might be expected is a braggadocios intro to Backstab's sound. DJ Haze provides a bouncy track for Backstab to rip, and he does his job. His delivery is forceful and not at all stereotypically "white" sounding; he kind of sounds like Pop Da Brown Hornet. He spits words hard with conviction, and where his lyrics sag, he carries the track on his mostly intelligent street-edged charisma. Though these lyrics look fairly good on paper, you just can't do written justice to a tight rhyme flow like Backstab is capable of exhibiting.

"No longer handle being degraded, ego deflated
Finally realize you're overrated
Overwritten, overstated
Look how much your style is faded"

Good first song. Plus he calls Puffy wack and says he "acts gangsta for fun." So far so good. "Lyrical Gat" has a horn and string based uptempo beat by Hush that is not bad, but even though Backstab holds his own with the song's speed, his voice is just strained enough so that he sort of sounds like Fred Durst, and that's NOT a good thing. His lyrics are still above average and Mic King provides an energetic chorus, so this song is a fairly solid attempt at a high-energy cut. In "A Lad's Tale" Hush appears to bite two Pharoahe Monch songs off Internal Affairs: "No Mercy" and perhaps one horn stab off "Simon Says." The "No Mercy" hook is slowed down from the Pharaohe version, and to Haze's credit, he incorporates other samples to make this song his own. This song is pretty tight, and 'Stab drops more forceful lyrics worthy of pressing rewind. "Ugly Detroit" is an ode to Detroit with a sick beat that incorporates hushed bells for a laid-back change of tempo. Hush does his job crafting this dark-sounding song; it sounds like signature Mobb Deep material, and Backstab kills the rhymes yet again with clever truths and a confident delivery: "Where the boys in the hood are always hard/it's where nobody got insurance, but we all got cars."

Mad Chemist produces the subtly orchestral "I Had a Dream" which is a pretty witty description of a dream where Backstab namechecks a ton of cats in the rap game. The song is original and lighthearted, and 'Stab is a good enough lyricist to pull off a goofy premise and also keep things quality:

"I had dream Jay-Z couldn't scrape up a G
I had a dream I caught a case and I was coppin' a plea
I had a dream I was LL, and always got laid
Shoulda seen me dog, I took my shirt off on stage"

In this song, Backstab decides to drop the N-word, which is always a bad idea when you're white. I didn't even notice the first time I listened to it, but I rewinded the track and sure enough, he says he's "kingin' niggaz like checkers." He obviously doesn't mean any offense, but no matter how legit a rapper you are, if you're white, don't say "nigga", "niggaz", "nigger" or anything resembling any of those words. Nothing good can come of it. Despite his decision to drop the anonymous "nigga", the song is tight, so Backstab, why you gotta make it hard on yourself?

The rest of the alum is more of the same- good lyrics and solid beats, and Backstab is definitely a talented guy who, unlike most MCs, should be rapping. The title track is good, and all in all, this is a promising look at a legitimate rap force.

Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10

Originally posted: October 15, 2002