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RapReview Of The Week

[Hell and Back] Drag-On :: Hell and Back
Label: Ruff Ryders/Virgin Records

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

It's somewhat surprising to see that Drag-On is still making albums. It's been four years since the "Opposite of H20" album was released, and while it might have pleased what (if any) Drag-On fans were out there it didn't make big waves artistically or commercially. He seemed poised to be the next star out of the Ruff Ryders camp following the success of DMX and Eve, but the hit singles like "Down Bottom" were ultimately misleading. Some rappers go solo from their crew and soar to great heights; ironically, the "Dragon" of DMX's posse crashed and burned.

In four years time, some things have changed and some haven't. One that hasn't is the appearance of Swizz Beatz on his album. The quirky beat maestro, known for a production style that can at times either be a train wreck or a beautiful work of abstract art, often seems to inspire Ruff Ryders to perform at their best. This certainly seems to be true of the catchy first single "Bang Bang Boom." Proving apt the ode "less is more," Swizz creates a minimalistic beat with few accoutrements that gives Drag plenty of room to rap on:

"Mami put ya hands UP! Hush ya man UP! Tryin to play gorilla, my clips are bana-NAS! So don't slip
I do what gangstas do, but don't get it confused
My floors mostly sand so you ain't gotta bring ya shoes
My crib is half house, half beach
Sit your booty on this king size and see the sea
I'm a lil' freaky-o, I might lick ya toes
I got more zeroes by my ones than Cheerios
See your stilleto shoes, your Mac lip gloss
And ain't a dime chick, that Drag didn't floss
Shorty booty bangin, tell me what you thinkin
Drag keep 'em bouncin, Swizz keep 'em singin"

As soon as Drag-On brings in the guests though, the obvious weaknesses in his style rise to the surface. Even the normally monochromatic Styles P sounds positively technicolor next to Drag-On when paired together for "Respect My Gangsta." It only goes downhill on "Tell Your Friends." Neo's beat sounds like protons and electrons being ripped out of a Yamaha keyboard by force, but it works. Drag-On's rap however doesn't, especially when upstaged by fan favorite Jadakiss:

"Aiyyo fall back, respect, learn how to love a nigga
You only alive on the strength of another nigga
I've been nice all my F'n life
A big house I only slept in twice
Rhymes so dope that they should be kept in rice
The mistakes I made shall be corrected in my second life
Nigga I be in the booth relaxed, I seduce the track
Then beat it up like I produced the track, what?
Say another line about a gun muh'fucka
and I'ma pass one to you, blast one through you
You don't got adrenaline, ASH run through you
I run through cash, CASH run through you"

Drag-On does get his album back briefly on "Put Your Drinks Down," thanks to the salsafied production style rapidly becoming status quo in hip-hop and some heavy bass courtesy of Needlz. Drag-On needs Needlz and guys like him, because he hardly creates fire on his own. His similies about how chicks are like basketball when they "lay up" are HA HA funny, and far from witty. His flow is reminiscent of LL Cool J's near career derailment from the "Phenomenon" song, when he suddenly decided talking quietly and without emphasis made for a good flow. To date, Busta Rhymes is the only one to pull off this style, because even when barely breathing on a mic he still sounds like a hot kettle on the stove waiting to explode. Drag's more like an icicle left on an electric hot plate, slowly warming up and eventually evaporating into nothingness.

Guests continue to upstage Drag-On throughout the album. Even when he spits his faster and more impressive "Down Bottom" flow on "I'm a Ryder," it's Baby's rap and TQ's hook that steals the show. When you're outrapped by Baby on your own album, that's a problem. DMX does it to him on the Rockwilder produced "Let's Get Crazy," Eve does it to him on Teflon's "U Had Me" and again on Tuneheadz' "Part II" sequel, and Drag-On is left the four tracks in between them for a chance to recapture glory. "Holla at Your Boy" comes as close as any will, thanks to a Dom Flava beat so hard it sounds like it came out of M.O.P.'s camp. Swear to God, you will expect to hear Lil' Fame screaming the words "YOU SEE IT!" at any moment. Good beats do bring the best out of Drag-On, at least for a short time:

"I'm like OOH, WEE, I'm still here baby
I just finished three albums, e'ything's all gravy
I'm still leanin on niggaz, actin like it can't happen
I put my gun in your mouth, turn your teeth platinum
Ain't no more one-on-ones, nigga it's guns-on-guns
Knives-on-knives, you murder my mans, we murder your wives
OOH, WEE, come yell at your boy
But if I catch her feelin me, would you bell at your boy?
I got a new drink, it's called 'Gang Related'
Alize is red, Hypnotiq is blue
Put a little Henny in it to bring out the THUG in you
But don't hate on your boy Drag, Drag got love for you"

One would prefer not to hate on Drag, but it's tantalizing hints of dopeness like these that make the mediocrity of the rest of his album so insufferable. Sentimental songs like "My First Child" prove he's a sensitive thug, but that too is a cliche any more in East coast rap and others have done it better. "It's a Party" is more clever, as it opens with a spoof of club music and turns into a bloody beat, but his faux Jamaican accent needs work. By the time you reach "Life is Short" you'll be wishing the same of this nearly sixty minute album. In the end it's true that some things NEVER change, chief among them that despite having four years to improve his rap, this potentially hot MC makes music that lives up to his name - it drags on.

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

Originally posted: February 17, 2004
source: www.RapReviews.com


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