As "8 Mile", a film about a rapper seeking fame and fortune in the city of Detroit, attracts movie-goers all over the world, hopes must be flying high for Motor City MC's, DJ's and the hip-hop scene in general. But as much as Marshall Mathers may have established his hometown as a hip-hop spot to watch, each and every one of its representatives has to make their way individually into the nation's consciousness. Today we welcome DJ Butter and B-Boy R.E.G., by way of their mix-CD "I'm the DJ, He's the Emcee", a title that plays on DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince's breakthrough double LP "I'm the DJ, He's the Rapper".
The press kit that came along with it mentions DJ Butter's album "Shithappens" and a two-hour documentary and soundtrack called "Welcome to Shitsville", while the CD itself advertises B-Boy R.E.G.'s debut "The Art of Public Speaking". Truth be told, I'd rather review one of these items than this mix-CD because I doubt it will be of much interest to anyone outside of Detroit. Those who think about seeking it out one way or another should prepare for the typical raw mixtape sound, some scratching, a couple of familiar and a bunch of unknown beats (some of which had better stay unknown), and R.E.G. displaying a variety of moods and topics. He starts out on a aggravated note, but calms quickly down and flows in his slightly annoying tone over topic-driven tracks such as "B-Boy Seranade" ("I'm a true b-boy, only hip-hop can soothe me / my girl hated rap, so I dumped the floosie") or "Lies & Alibies" (about a relationship gone sour). Lyrically, he's got a little bit of everything, but unfortunately not enough of anything. We're dealing with a typical hit-and-miss rhymer here, one that can't count on a strong delivery, at that. Still, he shows promise here and there, for example when he addresses "Studio Gangsta's". Combing this CD for punchlines, you might come across things like "Your whole cluckin' click just be fake negroes / like my dick they only act hard in front of hoes," but by and large he lacks the vocal punch that would make his verbal punches hit home.
As the Detroit hip-hop scene gets pulled into the spotlight, R.E.G. hopes that he has a say in defining what Detroit is about - and what not. As he puts it in "H.P. Style":
"I just got my start, now these niggas wanna end me
but I'm burnin' grills like the burger boy in Wendy's
It's like this way, that-a-way, which way should I swing it?
East Coast, West Coast, fuck 'em all, bring it
This ain't the East Coast flavor or the West Coast behavior
Rap a nigga out his Timbos +and+ his Chuck Taylors
Now who's the next clown to represent yo town?
But like bungee jumpin' they don't really get down"
In hip-hop terms, Detroit has yet to gain notoriety the way other cities have. A posse cut like "Detroit, Detroit" (loosely based on Tha Dogg Pound's "New York, New York") is a small step in this direction. Too bad it's happening on a project that doesn't really look carefully crafted. Strictly speaking, this is not even a proper mix-CD because there's virtually no mixing going on, some tracks are just fading into obscurity and whenever they're supposed to mix, there's a short but significant pause between the tracks. More than anything else, "I'm the DJ, He's the Emcee" comes off like an album sampler - of a still unfinished album, that is.
But everybody's allowed to dream. In "I Had a Dream" B-Boy R.E.G. details the ingredients to his own dreamworld a la "Nellyville":
"Times were good, never ever bad
all my days were good like the one Cube had
I rocked the crowd, over a hundred thou
I make my own movie, don't wake me up now"
In reality, he's much more than "8 Miles" away from making his own movie. So far, that dream has come true for only one Detroit rapper.
Music Vibes: 4 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 4.5 of 10
Originally posted: November 22, 2002