"E=MC2." Hmm. "E(ntell)" = your average "emcee," squared. Okay, okay, not bad. With as little fanfare as a guy like Entell receives, something clever like that might sneak up on you. It's merely an album title, but it generally sums up how Entell works; beyond expectations. The cover of the LP shows him adorned in thugged out camouflage, a hood concealing all but a slightly gnarled upper lip. "Here we go..." might be as much as I uttered. The second I heard his voice, I strapped myself in for some thuggish ruggish bologna, and immediately began contemplating how many 4's and 5's one can deal out in a year's time.
It's evident that I've all-too comfortably adjusted to a low standard in underground hip-hop, but I can thank an artist like Entell for helping me realize it. Simply put, he has major label talent. His voice is reminiscent of Obie Trice, but he flows better (ain't that a bitch?). Charisma is rarely a problem for him, and the overused and underappreciated use of the punch line is actually done some justice. Entell possesses the rare ability to go hard without losing any lyrical cred, a feat in which even the wiliest of veterans struggle.
But in between telling "wack rappers to tuck the mic between their legs" and being "so hot your girl gotta blow me," Entell is plagued by the two most feared album assassins in all of hip-hop: inferior guests, and even worse, inferior production. With the guest spots, it is what it is; nearly all chorus crooners, they hardly compliment Entell's rhymes, and some (Paulette on "I Luv Hip Hop") work to ruin the whole song. And while some of the beats are nice (much of the sampling is certainly above average), it becomes increasingly apparent that Entell has been hooked up by the wrong demographic. "Looking At Me" is on some westside bounce, but Entell clearly belongs on a hard-hitting New Yorker. It's little surprise, then, that he sounds much better (and more comfortable) over the live *rock* version of "Standin' Ovation:" "whatever he say? Fuck it - I shoot the 45 through your whole line like T.J. Duckett."
This is easily the biggest problem with "E=MC2." Not only does the emcee outshine his production, but even when the beats are decent, they hardly match his style. "I'm Only Human" might have been a top 40 rap hit with Bow Wow, but Entell only does what he can to mesh. On the opening "Overthrow," Entell bounces off the wall with energy, even acknowledging his southern influences (he's from North Carolina), but the beat sounds like a throwaway from "Release Therapy." "Feelin' You" is ALMOST too smooth to hate, unfortunately the beat finally outshines Entell's mushy rhymes.
"Da Letter E" works hard to impress, emphasizing on the alliteration of the said character, but one can only do so much: "'cause niggas get eager and either talk or grab the eagle and hurt more than your ego/I eclipse the game, equip the thang, erase your name, and to them do the same." It certainly could have been a lot worse, but the same could be said about the war on terror. Entell and his crew of flunkies floss when there's no room on "Whatever You Want," featuring a chorus that's just as good as prying at the BET office doors: "show your grill, get money, do your thang, show your chain." Yeah, whatever.
To his credit, "E=MC2's" shortcomings have little to do with Entell the emcee. "I came back, did music, didn't listen/I'm sorry dad, I know you don't agree with my decisions." It's this kind of determination that's only necessary for Entell to succeed, not only with his album but surely in a career in rap. His beats might not be ideal, but it's all gravy, baby; "E=MC2" is easier to appreciate than it is to enjoy.
Music Vibes: 5.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6 of 10
Originally posted: December 12, 2006