Sometimes, there's a beauty in simplicity. This is true of life, art and Rap specifically. A complex lyricist can make a listener think, or laugh, or even cry. But seldom can such a rapper move more than your mind. Even the greatest fan of lyricists needs a time to sit back, turn the bass up, and just vibe to some great beats.
For those times "Digital Smoke" is one of 2007's choice albums. There are no complex themes, metaphors, or even rhyme schemes to be found here. All "Digital Smoke" has is an effortlessly graceful execution that is silky smooth from beginning to end. The production, made solely by J. Wells, is straight up West Coast, bouncing and grooving simultaneously. This isn't Dr. Dre's G-Funk, but J. Wells undeniably is a product of that tradition, and his production here is California to the core.
Though Kurupt's name is the more recognizable of the two, this is J. Wells' show through and through. Not only does he produce the whole album, he raps as much as Kurupt does. Not that it matters; nobody is listening to this album for the lyrics. To put it bluntly, this album is horrible lyrically. They both ride the beat well, and that's the best that can be said for them. Thematically, its even worse, as the topics range from sleeping with random girls, weed, and them being good rappers. What's worse is that they actually criticize random MC's who "ain't sayin nothing," when they embody that attitude.
The poor lyricism, however, is completely irrelevant once "All We Smoke" bounces through your speakers and your head starts to nod. "Digital Smoke" manages to be unfailingly consistent while also displaying J. Wells' talents. He shows a fair range; while the smooth, bouncing funk of songs like " I'm Just Sayin" is his bread and butter, he manages to throw a few successful curve balls. "Get It," featuring Goodie Mob manages to merge dirty south beat with his more grooving style to perfection.
Clocking in at just under fifty minutes (48:51), "Digital Smoke" is long enough to satisfy, while short enough not to bore the listener at any point. J. Wells doesn't have a huge variety in his style, so it would be monotonous to hear much more from him. Fortunately, the beats aren't the only thing this album has going for it, the album almost never fails to sound good. Kurupt and J. Wells may not put on good lyrical performances, but they are vocally excellent, riding the beats to perfection. Their multitude of guests (only two songs don't have a "featuring" tag on them) perform well, staying within the boundaries of the music.
As mentioned, "Digital Smoke" isn't a complicated album. It's the kind of smooth, funked out approach that the West Coast has always thrived on, and this is no different. If you like music that sounds good, "Digital Smoke" is worth a listen, plain and simple. It's not an intellectually fulfilling album, but it's sure fun to listen to. And really, what more does it need to be?
Music Vibes: 9 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 4 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6.5 of 10
Originally posted: June 19, 2007