My bet was on R&B cat. Judging from the look of the CD alone, considering artist name, album name, absence of a Parental Guidance sticker, track titles like "ABC," "Hey Bitty," "Sorry," "Hey Girl" and "Move Your Body," I readily assumed Nitty was a singer, with maybe a 25% chance that I'm wrong and he's actually a rapper. Well, turns out he is a rapper. Not just from anywhere, but from the Bronx, the birthplace of hip-hop.
Conceptually, Nitty is a welcome break from the regularly scheduled program. Despite the underworld moniker, Frank 'Nitty' Ross is not another hustler feeling confessional. Rather, he presents himself as a ladies man. With 12 out of 12 selections addressing the female species, he makes no bones about his target audience. Outside of the club tracks, a couple of songs stand out simply because of a content that goes beyond the courtship that dominates the rest of the album. "Fly" is about escaping to a more pleasurable place together, while on "Sorry" the rapper regrets breaking up with an ex:
"See, I was runnin' with the wrong crowd, actin' a fool
Partied all the time, hit the club and broke all the rules
Caught up in the fast lane, didn't wanna slow up
My joint was bangin' all over, I was 'bout to blow up
I was only 18, about to be a star
Fast chicks, fast dough and a fancy car
Didn't know right from wrong, I was livin' the life
until I lost my best friend, she coulda been my wife
The crazy part about this thing - I left my boo
Can't imagine all the pain that I put her through
I was young, I was dumb, in this game for fun
Treated her like number two while she was always the one"
If that sounds like a fairly simple approach, it's as deep as Nitty lyrically gets. Making people dance is a noble task and certainly not something Nitty should be knocked for, but rap has a tradition of getting people to move and getting them to think at the same time. Lately, Jay-Z and Ludacris (with the help of potent producers) have dominated this discipline, yet Nitty is nowhere near their league. He gets respect for keeping his music suited for all audiences, but that's no excuse for unimaginative lyrics. What makes matters worse is that Nitty doesn't have what I call a 'musical' voice. He possesses no special drawl, timbre, lilt, lisp, growl or any of the vocal qualities that 95% of professional rappers use to put themselves apart from some random guy you pick off the street. Virtually every rapper you can think of, from the most hated to the most loved, has a more expressive voice than Nitty.
Bottomline - don't believe the hype. Specifically don't believe Universal when they're trying to tell you that "Nitty has the charisma of LL Cool J and the versatility of Usher." In fact, the only thing Nitty distinguishes himself with is his LACK of charisma and versatility. It's hard to tell whether he's naturally limited or if he purposely limits himself to one style. Either way, if your album is that streamlined, it's safe to assume that at best you're gonna be a one-hit wonder. It wouldn't even be fair to compare him to pop rappers of the past, because most of them had more to offer, even if the public just swallowed that one bait that made them a one-hit wonder. Nitty on the other hand is as one-dimensional a rapper as I've ever met.
To his credit, occasionally he has an idea that with a little bit of luck could translate into a formula for success. What I'm not talking about is running down the alphabet by linking girl names with car models over an overused Grace Jones sample (no, strangely enough not "Pull Up to My Bumper") as he does in "ABC":
"Got Angie in a Ac', B pushin' a Benz
Cindy's in a Corvette, she's comin' with all of her friends
Chrome rim spins, the system blastin', pocket with ends
Got bitties from all over, son, nothin' but 10's
Dana from Dallas, she's rollin' in a black Denali
Hang with Sally from the Valley, swung an ep' out in Cali
Eve from Europe [...] in a Expedition
Man listen, she's on a mission, 69's her position
Fran is from France, she's dipppin' in a hot Ferrari
550 Marinello, mamis callin' me papi"
The two songs that might make Nitty a household name are the two singles. "Hey Bitty" is one for the cheerleaders, a rap version of Toni Basil's number one new wave hit "Mickey," complete with a choir of girls chanting: "Oh Nitty, you're so fine / you're so fine, you blow my mind..." Later on in the song, Nitty doesn't content himself with call-and-response games, but displays a remarkably fast flow. Still, at this point it's hard not to be reminded of fellow flash in the pans like K7 ("Come Baby Come") or Lou Bega ("Mambo No. 5") who both attempted to fuse the elegant gesture of swing with the ready-to-rumble attitude of hip-hop.
"Nasty Girl" already climbed to the top of the charts in Australia earlier this year. The sample places it smack dab in the middle of American pop music, as it jacks both the chorus melody and the famous xylophone from "Sugar Sugar" by The Archies, a band of cartoon characters from the late '60s. Again, Nitty gets credit for not aspiring to be more than he is. Instead of some of his peers, who sample the softest shit and talk tough over it, Nitty actually stays true to the aesthetic of the oldie, adding himself a bit of old school flavor with his comical performance:
"Hey girl, I like your flavor
Wish I could be your neighbor
Must be coffee by the way you shakin' your percolator
I'm the smooth operator
Hot mami motivator
What I really wanna do, put that thing on you, butter up your hot potato
Gettin' more dough than bakers
Rims spinnin' like the New York Breakers
You got it all, give me a call, I'm ballin' like the Lakers"
At this point, rather than covering a bunch of songs that neither add anything substantial to this review nor Nitty's album, let's take a look at the man's goodie two shoes image. Remember Destiny's Child's "Nasty Girl"? In Nitty's book, being a "Nasty Girl" is nothing to be ashamed of. Yet both songs ultimately talk about promiscuous behavior. At the same time, Universal promotes Nitty with the following statement:
'As a writer and producer of all of his own music, Nitty can make songs the way he likes - feelgood music that spans the generational gaps comfortably. In keeping with his clean image, Nitty makes the type of music kids can play without their parents having to cover their ears, especially since its curse-free! Bringing back the good vibes and a time when you went to a show to be entertained, not just rapped at, is what Nitty specializes in. With his explosive rapping skills, positive energy and million dollar smile, there is no doubt that Nitty is a rising star and his future holds only bigger things. It's time for the nice guy to finish first, and through his music Nitty shows it's possible to go against the grain, do the right thing, and still come out on top.'
In reality, Nitty is no different from Britney Spears when in interviews she talked about the virtues of keeping one's virginity and on records worked herself into a sensual sweat. Similarly, "Player's Paradise" is chock-full of sexual innuendo. The oddest line is a girl proclaiming "I can love you longtime" in a faux Asian accent, obviously referencing the prostitute from _Full Metal Jacket_ and her infamous "Me so horny, me love you longtime" line. Bizarre. So parents, if you're not completely deaf and only slightly in-tuned with Ebonics, you're gonna know what's up when Nitty insinuates: "All the mamis wanna freak with me, all the mamis wanna creep with me." You're going to rack your brain whether your kid understands invitations like "Let me do that dirty dance with you" and "I got the love cup, can I drink your juice?" Nitty makes full use of his poetic license, but that doesn't mean we don't understand what he's trying to say: "As I cruise down your tunnel of love I be your ship / Laid-back, baby, I can ride your waves / Ride your waves, baby, I can ride for days."
Nitty makes you realize that there's a thin line between clean and dirty. With means ranging from subtle ("Put it down and make your toes curl") to graphic ("I just wanna tap that booty, slap that booty, smack that booty, I just wanna crack that booty"), Nitty is hell-bent on stimulating your sexual imagination. So who exactly is that kind of promotion trying to fool? Surely not the kids, because if anybody is hip to the game of pop music, it's them:
"The freak's comin' out tonight, it's the bread-winner
Uptown representer, chrome-rims-spinner
Horny lil' devil, guess that makes me a sinner
Got a pitchfork, baby, can I stick you for dinner?
Treat you like a feast, spread you on the table
Eat you up from head to toe, nibble on your navel
Make you scream loud, make your neighbors call the cops
Got a little piece of ice, baby, for your hot spot
Turn it up a notch, gimme what you got
Girl, I know you're nasty cause you're ridin' on top"
While monitoring Nitty's lyrics, I expected a slip of the tongue any minute, but "ass" and "nympho" is actually as explicit as "Player's Paradise" gets. But if you're looking for family fun, Will Smith is still your safest bet. As far as Nitty goes, what's okay for Fiddy should be okay for Nitty. "Candy Shop" and "Nasty Girl" - ain't that much of a difference. Except that 50 Cent is more entertaining than Nitty even on his worst day.
It takes guts to cater exclusively to the ladies. It takes gall to have no famous guest producers and guest rappers at all on your debut. Still, apart from one or two pop songs, the one-man band Nitty has not much more to offer than clinically clean beats, female adlibs galore, glittery percussion and a Michael Jackson sample. Nitty ain't afraid to go pop. But it's doubtful that even with a whole lot of hot air he'll ever blow up.
Music Vibes: 6 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 4 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 5 of 10
Originally posted: March 22, 2005