Terror Squad :: True Story
Label: Universal Records
Author: Matt Barone
Ready to bring hip-hop back to their beloved Bronx borough, the Terror
Squad has endured member changes, death, and rumors of dispersion to drop
their sophomore effort True Story. Since the release of their self-titled debut
album in 1999, the Fat Joe-led crew has seen original members Cuban Link and
Triple Seis depart, and super-lyricist Big Pun unfortunately pass away. With
loss, though, comes room for addition, as Pun's female protégé Remy Martin and R&B
specialist Tony Sunshine have passed initiation to join Joey Crack and his
loyal brethren Armageddon and Prospect.
Backed by a diverse arsenal of beats, True Story oozes with new life,
as each song sounds like it was recorded with something to prove. Fat Joeseem
reinvigorated, staking his claim into the sought-after title of "King of New
York," while Remy Martin appears on seven of the album's 12 cuts in hopes of
locking her spot as the game's strongest feminine MC. Both Joe and Remy dominate
True Story, a point that actually brings the record down in overall quality.
It's not that either isn't capable of holding down the fort. The problem is
that the end product sounds more like a "Bonnie and Clyde" album for Joe and
Remy, with only scattered guest appearances from the rest of the Squad.
"Nothing's Gonna Stop Me" begins the story, sporting a soulful blend
of vocal samples and melodic blues for Fat Joe to warn his opposition alongside
a surprisingly able rap verse from Tony Sunshine. The laidback mood of "
Nothing's Gonna Stop Me" quickly energizes courtesy of a brutal Scram Jones
production on "Yeah Yeah Yeah," pounding ear drums with a militant backdrop
strengthened by rolling percussion and powerful horns. The ante is upped even higher
on the amazing "Bring 'Em Back," where the guitars and violins sounds utilized
by Lord Finesse are blessed with verses from the late Big Pun and Big L,
while inspiring Fat Joe to spit fire:
"Ay yo, I'm old school like Rick the Ruler, sick jewels, the big Buddha
Lift dudes with six-shooter Luger (Pull Up!)
That means 'bring it back'
NY, king of that, the best tried to dead mine but just can't see to that
The forthcoming, don't look now, there's more coming
Now we all stunnas with lil money but still hungry
True Story, once threw a nigga from a two-story
Asked for my paper, he said there was nothin' he could for me"
Remy Martin makes a star turn on the current summer anthem "Lean Back,"
but the rest of her bars heard on True Story never approach quotable status.
She speaks on typical topics such as wack bitches, drug practices, and other
generic issues with sufficient skill that lacks the special qualities needed to
launch her into rap stardom. "Streets Of NY" is her one chance to exhibit
verbal diversity, but she is upstaged by the vocal power of Tony Sunshine and
Emile's upbeat instrumental. Armageddon, who has showed much promise in the
past, also does little to push his lyrical game to the forefront. While he does
tug emotional strings on the heartfelt "Pass Away," he is only allowed two
other songs to rhyme on, one being the formulaic radio-friendly jam "Take Me Home."
Despite a mere three verses on the whole album, Prospect manages to
display the most potential, showing that True Story has more to offer than simply
tracks for Fat Joe fans. He shows and proves solo on "Thunder In The Air,"
attacking Armageddon's darkly ambient beat with pure honesty and introspection.
"Hum Drum" features sick beat work by Cool and Dre, sampling of 10 c.c.'s "
Dean & I," which was used to a lesser degree on "When The Chips Are Down" off
of the Lloyd Banks album. Prospect completely outshines Remy and Armageddon on
"Hum Drum," bruising the track with his polished flow:
"Yo, this the upcoming success, definition of Prospect
Put your money on me, you'll get recognition and profit
On any condition I drops it, on a mission
Don't listen to gossip, when I'm splitting impostors
Sort of like a mobster, and my niggas I got ya
We all gonna be eating soon like Italians with pasta
Smoking weed and eating curry chicken like the Rastas"
With only one truly suspect selection (the painfully Neptunes-sounding "
Let Them Things Go"), True Story is a solid release that will help Fat Joe
and his Squad rep the BX to the fullest for months to come. Worthy of listens,
the album can't help but hint at something better, though. Stronger emphasis on
lesser known Squadians Armageddon and Prospect would have greatly benefited
True Story. It's obvious that Remy Ma is next up to bat, but based on her
overall performance here, marketing muscle may be better flexed behind her
associates. Rock-solid production helps to distract listeners from these grievances,
however, so Terror Squad should bump in speakers nationwide without hesitation.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10
Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10
TOTAL Vibes: 7.5 of 10
Originally posted: August 3, 2004