Andre Nickatina, TAFKA Dre Dog, has been a fixture of the West coast bay area for well over a decade. Damn, that's so cliche any more ain't it? There's a whole generation of the West's best who put it down consistantly for years, are all loved by both their fans and peers, and would still be likely to garner an incredulous "WHO?" if mentioned to anybody East of the San Andreas fault. While you might think from the exceedingly long title of this album that Nickatina fashions himself a disciple of Tupac Shakur, their affinity for the Cali lifestyle would be their only link - in fact I'm not sure the two ever did a song together at any time (there's certainly none obvious on OHHLA). That Nickatina may not have gotten in California love from Shakur is surprising to me given he's at least as big as Mac Mall, Spice 1, Ant Banks and E-40 - and Shakur did work with all of them.
That doesn't stop Andre Nickatina from spreading love of his own though. "Bullets" is loaded with other artists sharing the billing and the beats. Equipto is the most regular contributor with three tracks but you'll also find Mac Dre on "Andre-N-Andre," Krushadelic on "Heaven Thru the Back Door," and B. Shaw on "1 of the Same" among others. Nickatina's style is deceptive. If you're not paying close attention you might think that he's just spitting game about how many hoes he knows and how his bankroll grows, but there are gems weaved in between the bullets and blunts that are pretty dope on closer scrutiny. Take one of the tracks he duets on with Equipto, "My Wishes," for example:
"Picture a blind man that can't see
Meanin' the beauty he's supposed to see God, it can't be
I slither low like a snake, the venom I spit uh make me shake
Look at the cakes I baked
Weed in my brain got me baptized
Unless you talkin bout money, you ain't sayin shit rap wise
I'm so addicted to red licorice and fine bitches
Khan lives forever man that's my wishes"
You get the feeling from his words that while he might be living an extravagant lifestyle, he also feels trapped by it, as though he's the blind man who can't see that wishes he could escape. His closing verse feels like the proof:
"Excruciatin, no duplicatin this fury
Look at the lawyer with a grin for the hung jury
Four wishes, more wishes, man and more bitches
Man more weed, more G's, man and club bitches
The rap scriptures, we hold them like the bible
Imagine somebody shootin at your idol
Ricochet, big daddy get paid, soak like Clorox make it fade
Bust it 27 ways, we did it right away
Sneak weed up in heaven with the switches
Eatin red licorice and lyin with the bitches
I hate to do dishes, in love with my riches
Man it ain't suspicious why you sleep with the fishes"
Perhaps that will explain to some why previous Nickatina albums have had titles like "Tears of a Clown" and "Conversation With a Devil." The beats don't always live up to Nickatina's status though. The aforementioned "My Wishes" was laced hella tight by a producer simply named Justin, who drives a brooding bass along by weaving in a lilting violin melody. "Blood N My Hair" had the potential to do the same, but Nick Peace forgot to give it any twonk and ironically made Nickatina's lyrics TOO MUCH of the focus. Other well done tracks - the Q-York produced organs of "I'm a Junkie" and synthetic strings found on "1 of the Same," Equipto's appropriately somber beat for "Eyes of a Child," and the amusing "Nasty Like College Chicks" track where Peace makes a much better showing for himself, and of course Justin's work on the seminal "Andre-N-Andre" track. The other tracks are largely forgettable, though none are horrifically bad - just occasionally a little thin. "Bullets" will probably not go down as one of the all-time great records of the Dre Dog/Andre Nickatina catalogue, but it's not an embarassment to his legacy either.
Music Vibes: 6 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6 of 10
Originally posted: October 19, 2004