Who would want to argue that releasing anger by way of a recreational, creative activity such as making music isn't a good thing? I would, after having to deal with Anger's "Releasing Anger." The Portland, ME rapper has teamed up with producer Beat Architect to release a debut album that lacks in virtually every aspect. They start off traditionally with an intro comprised of what sounds like a clarinet and a batch of scratches that serve to illustrate their mission. The Andre soundbite "Ask me what the fuck I'm doin', I'm releasin' anger" and MURS' "Here I stand at the threshold of anger" are well-chosen, but by the time Beat Architect ends with O.C.'s "It's no doubt you're gonna bump this in your system," the subpar sound quality will have already made you highly sceptical whether that's really gonna be the case. If I'm looking for something to bump in my system I'll say no thanks to a track that opens up with some really bad whistling. But that's exactly how "The One and Only" operates, before it advances to a structure that could almost be called complex with measured drums and scattered sound debris. If this description evokes a beat that might be labelled as avantgarde, believe me it's not, it's just amateurish.
As for Anger, he quickly exposes himself as a vocalist with very little musical sense, a bland voice reciting lifeless lyrics pressed into simple rhyme schemes with only the most rudimentary understanding of rhythm and timing. The content of this record is like a compendium of lyrical failure. Potentially interesting lines are ruined by the rapper's vocal clumsiness: "I had to stop reachin' for the top cause I heard that's where it's lonely / so I chose to slip into underground hip-hop slowly." Any negative remarks he directs towards others are likely to fall back on him: "Cause what I hear today is a display of shit that's weak". He's keen to state the obvious: "You should think with your mind and listen with your ears." He relies on imagery others have long run into the ground: "Compare my rhymes to that of a really fat dime sack / and CD's are sellin' so fast you can only describe it as rhyme crack / so call me a drug dealer if you will." His threats are so lame they're laughable: "Knockin' teeth out even though you don't got dental insurance." The list goes on. Even when you think he's saying something of substance, he really isn't:
"I'm not about just dissin' but it seems like when I listen
all some MC's talk about are things that just glisten
like rims on a car or a Rolex on their wrist
spendin' money every day on a bitch's shopping list
If I had money I'd like to do the same thing but I don't
talk about it in my rhymes, that's what you do, but I just won't"
The most infuriating part about it is that Anger attempts to pass himself off as an intellectual, addressing "all my competition who rhyme with intellect / who watch me very closely tryin' to inspect." Needless to say, the intellectual appearance wears off fast. He is aware that "arrivin' at the truth after logical arguments is the definition of my record label" - Dialectic Records -, but words like 'truth' and 'logical arguments' seem too strong for such feeble, flawed rhetoric. There's rarely been a bigger mismatch than when Beat Architect cues in GZA's "rhyme thoughts travel at a tremendous speed" for "Thoughts Travel" while Anger racks his scatterbrain for something relevant only to come up with the conclusion "My lyrical mastery / makes up 80% of my brain's capacity." It's like Anger has some kind of compulsive need to constantly embarrass himself. Why is it always the most limited rappers that try to battle? To top it off, Anger's got the nerve to claim he's "tryin' to bring hip-hop back to the way it was in the past" and to regularly reference established artists (everybody from OutKast to Cannibal Ox), but all the name-dropping amounts to zero because Anger himself possesses none of the wit, the passion or the style that distinguish the cream of the crop. Matter of fact, the longer he persists, the more annoyed you'll become with his chumming up to the big names: "Even though Jay-Z ain't the construction engineer I still got the Blueprints laid out on the table."
There's nothing wrong with coming in second after Thirstin Howl III (on the bonus track "Rhymes Like Bullets"), but if you get outshined by your own producer (on "Stepping Stone Anthem"), you got a problem. I imagine myself to be a relatively forgiving critic. After these remarks you might see why it's hard to be polite in this particular case. It pains me to sit through the monologue of a rapper who tries so hard to make a case for himself without the slightest chance of success. Despite several attempts I simply couldn't bring myself to listen past track 10. Only after a good night's sleep I felt focused enough to give it another try. And believe it or not, Anger actually somewhat redeems himself during the second half of "Releasing Anger." It's when he is less obnoxious that the potential MC starts to take shape. "Emotional Pain" discusses feelings of fear, hate and anger, while "You Don't Know Me" adds a sincere touch, mirrored on the beat side by producer MOG's attempt at soul. On "Southern Blood" Anger explores his personal roots as well as hip-hop's current hotbed, mimicking his father who told him: "Boy, never quit, cause I didn't raise no quitter / I raised a go-getter / so go get what you need and bring it back / and show 'em how you bleed southern blood on this track." And so he does, ending up shouting out numerous relatives down south.
"Fuck Y'all" sees Anger living up to his moniker for the first time in over an hour. Both his storytelling efforts are commendable - "Crash the Party" is a clever song about the co-existence of dancehall and hip-hop, while "Ebeneezar" is an original take on Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol. "The Seen" finally is funny, accurate and insightful at the same time, a critical observation of the club scene:
"When I go to any club, yo, you know what I hear and you know I see
Videos in real life, it's just like bein' in those videos on BET
The same music playin' with color lights flashin'
Niggas and bitches wearin' the latest in fashion
All wantin' to fuck each other, tell me what happened
to all the passion, love and respect for the music and women?
I think it all sank to the bottom like a sinkin' boat but I'm still swimmin'
tryin' to bring it back to the basics like when the bass kicks
While y'all still actin' silly like the rabbit, that's why you chase tricks"
Despite these brief moments where "Releasing Anger" reaches an acceptable standard, it remains a record that is unprofessional in EVERY SINGLE aspect. There may be the occasional fresh loop here, a nice drum set there, but never do the beats shape up to even remotely being able to compete with most indie hip-hop out there. All you will witness here is beats and lyrics dragging each other down. Anger is right about one thing: "Never underestimate an MC that ain't well known." Unfortunately, coming from him, that observation only echoes the overestimation of his own abilities. At this point it would be really obsolete to offer yet another quote to illustrate how delusional Anger can get. Because I'm virtually fed up. I'm quite possibly more angered by this record than Anger himself was at any given moment of recording it. And that's definitely not how it should be.
Music Vibes: 2 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 2 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 2 of 10
Originally posted: May 24, 2005