After spending part of my much needed vacation having an ugly e-mail exchange with a white rapper who thinks he's hot shit when he's really NOT shit, I'm admittedly not in the best frame of mind to review an album entitled "Portrait of a White Boy." Haystak does have two things working in his favor though. First - I've heard his records before and I didn't hate them. Second - Haystak reminds me in all the right ways of Bubba Sparxxx. He's country but proud, he's so rural he sounds ghetto, he's white but he can definitely flow like he's not. Now I'm not trying to be a reverse racist and say all white rappers blow goats, but let's face it - a lot of aspiring white rappers out there don't sound any better than me when they grip a mic: corny. Commercially successful white rappers come in two flavors these days: Beastie Boys and Eminem. Everyone else, no matter how good, is forced to go the independent route and try their luck convincing a skeptical audience of black and white listeners alike that their shit's on hit.
With what is alleged to be "Part One of the White Boy Trilogy," Haystak aims to shake up those conceptions and give white rappers inroads to the mainstream other than being punchline kings or crossover rock stars. Produced from start to finish by Sonny P, the album displays a consistant crunkness that should be familiar and friendly to any fan of Southern rap. Considering that this album is 17 tracks and 71 minutes long, that consistancy is a big plus. Among the solid work start to finish though, there are a few standouts, especially early on in the presentation. "Dadgummit" has a smooth style that makes him sound eeriely like a cross between Baby Bash and Lil' Rob. "Broads & Alcohol" is one of those thumping bouncy tracks that could easily become a Southern anthem, especially if given a Screw finish. "Red Light" comes off like a lost Makaveli beat - it's slow, moody, and heavy as hell. "Hustle & Flow" strums along like a folksy Cee-Lo rap ballad. Other joints worthy of extra recognition include the hilariously up-tempo "Off Tha Wall," the Trick Daddy-esque "My First Day," the pulsating "Make Money" and the ominously heavy "Safety Off" - a track crunk enough that even Lil Jon would say, "WHAT?!?! OH-KAYYEE!"
Haystak has a self-deprecating sense of humor, often being the first to knock himself for how he won't be considered "real" to hardheaded hip-hop fans. Taken to an extreme that could make him the rapping version of Rodney Dangerfield (R.I.P.) but it's carefully balanced with a strong sense of self-confidence in his ability and his flow. It's funny, but 'Stak is one of those rappers you probably wouldn't be able to peg as white if he didn't tell you so himself first. His voice is raspy and kinda low, and with that Southern swang he fits right in among a sound that ranges in diversity from Big Boi to Devin the Dude, from Eightball to Paul Wall. Knowing that calling his album the "Portrait of a White Boy" is bound to cause some negative reception from the public right off the bat, he challenges the misconceptions with strong lyricism on tracks like "Still You Doubted Me":
"I was, born a bastard, my momma was a baby
And she didn't have the skills it would ever take to raise me
Pops jumped ship and, left us doin bad
I pretty much blame him for everythang I never had
Far back as I remember I was always mad an'
constantly in trouble, I was always bad
Used to whip my ass for stealin and skippin class
Just basically fuckin up, they said I was nothin but a fuck-up
You're fuckin nuts! Just wait and see
I can't wait to make 'em eat that shit they talk 'bout me
I'll make granny proud of me, be someone that I can be
proud to be, they ain't fin' to make no ass out of me
How did we, overcome such obstacles and setbacks?
They told me I was average, but I just couldn't accept that
Let that, be the words, carved in my headstone
P.S. - you hatin motherfuckers were dead wrong!"
Haystak may not be your first choice walking through your local record store. You'll think the name sounds corny, and you'll look at the stenciled picture on the cover of a heavyset white dude throwing up a hand sign and think, "What the fuck is this white boy thinking?" But give Haystak a chance, and you find that not only is his "Portrait of a White Boy" entertaining, you're actually looking forward to the second and third part of that trilogy.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10
Originally posted: January 4, 2005