Custom Made has been getting plenty of hype as of late and more than enough coverage on this site. Following the formula made famous by 50 Cent, these LA cats have been flooding the mixtape circuit with massive amounts of materials which has lead to an E.P. deal with Rawkus and a "Best of" AND album deal with Babygrande. Even after the album deal they haven't slowed down and drop their latest mixtape, a 23 track collection of original music aimed to keep fans satisfied until "Fresh Out" drops later this year. Few rappers have been able to copy the output of 50 Cent without leading to eventual over-exposure and repetitiveness, but Custom Made has a major advantage in the fact that the crew consists of five rappers. With that many rappers, the crew manages to maintain your attention for most of "Heavy Traffic," though one is left to wonder what, if anything, new is left to be heard when the album finally drops.
Despite it's strong underground following, Custom Made isn't your typical back-pack hip-hop group. Though they definitely have a more soulful and conscious spin to their music, Custom Made's West Coast roots shine thoroughly as there are plenty of street raps and local repping throughout "Heavy Traffic." "LAX" is a vivid narrative of life in Los Angeles which is done so well it could only be surpassed by an actual live tour of the city's underside. The "Welcome 2 Heavy Traffic" interlude that follows this track gives us a major indication that Custom Made isn't your typical West-coast street group as the interlude is taken from an advertisement for Ralph Bakshi's "Heavy Traffic." This is the same man who brought us "Fritz the Cat," a cartoon about a sex-crazed cat in the 60s. Those familiar with the man's work will know it's not something for fans of "Scarface" or "Carlito's Way." Whether the crew is actually down with his movies or just found the sample, it's still a telling sign that such a skit is included. "Classics" brings us back to the music and is anything but with an uninspired hook and boring beat. "Bloody Nights" picks things up again with a darker up tempo beat, though the hook and strings are a little too loud on the track. The mixtape continues with a Paradox solo track, who is listed as an extended member of the group a la Cappadonna. Minus One gives Paradox a dope beat to rip with plenty of soul and ultra energetic horns in the hook, though Paradox can't build anything off of the dope hook.
More solo tracks would actually be a welcome addition to Custom Made's music as it's difficult enough to tell the emcees in Custom Made apart, let alone when you have extended members and guests thrown in the mix. Element gets a solo track on "A Man's World" where he drops a m ix of battle raps and trash talking:
"Yo, motherfuckers ain't spitting it right
I ain't gotta say one punch line, my delivery's nice
The proper herb and spice, I sprinkle on top of the mic
And eat any wack rapper in sight
Yo, most cats only make it on hype
Added every single nigga in your camp and y'all equaled alright
I ain't playing, this is really my life
And if a bitch know me she know dick, chick was never my wife
Understand I ain't your typical type
Navigate my way though the dark ages Pac gave me the light
This rap shit is like riding a bike, Smoke and L and write
Capture the mind I'm a son of a knight
From the state where the son stay bright
Plenty niggas bang and fight
And pull heat and bust out of spite
All night on a mash for cash
Dressed in dickes and masks
In all black in the hood it's bad"
This verse represents what Custom Made is all about, they basically spit street raps with a conscience and at least on this mixtape they tend to stay solely focused on that topic. The crew's narrow focus and repetition is made apparent by the fact that you can take the first verse on "The Evening":
"Through all the cold nights, all the fist fights and the drug play
They told me give my life to the lord, I said one day
Not knowing if tomorrow gone come
Spending time running with Satan knowing I'm your son
And it's hard, cause I only have one life to live
One man with two kids, not even the same crib
Damn, now I'm looking like the typical nig
Smoked out and stressed out cause the sinning I did"
and basically interchange it with the first verse on "Officer Down":
"Look at my life I was raised with my gun drawn
I grew up hearing momma singing one song
And Rodney King wanna get along
Gave up on Martin, we've been dreaming for too long
I grew up around coke in the crib
No lux, sheets poking my ribs hoping I live
Knowing I'd give my right foot to come up with the right hook
So I paint pictures show you how my life look"
This is not to detract from the fact that the crew and their affiliates are all dope rappers who drop verses that are both insightful and accessible, but at times the crew lacks any variety in their message.
The high points in "Heavy Traffic" definitely point to great things in the future of Custom Made. Their blend of street raps and social commentary is definitely ripe for being embraced by a large underground following. The tracks contained on "Heavy Traffic" are something different and fresh in a landscape dominated by violence and materiality. Their good intentions and overall positive mission are definitely commendable, but one can't overlook the fact that at least on this mixtape the group too often sticks to the same formula and does nothing new. For a mixtape, it is an acceptable error but for the album the crew definitely has to flip things conceptually and content-wise if they want to leave a lasting impression.
Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7.5 of 10
Originally posted: August 21, 2007