Contrary to what many people believe, when you critique albums, you actually WANT to be blown away by what you hear. I am, first and foremost, a music fan and I am constantly looking for a new reason to fall in love with sound all over again.
When I open up my mailbox on Saturday or Monday afternoons and receive the latest package of materials to review, the first thing I hope for is that something in this envelope is going to CHANGE MY LIFE. Yeah, I know that is a lot to ask of a few words, a few well-placed drum hits and a melody, but that is how I really feel.
This is why it can be so disappointing to pop an album in, only to realize that me and this artist and/or producer are just not going to connect. This is especially heartrending when the artist and/or producer have good intentions as displayed by their choice of packaging materials, well-chosen words or general philosophy.
Crazy Ballhead loves hip-hop as much as I do. I can tell by the amount of time and money that went into his CD packaging. The CD itself is styled to resemble a vinyl album; the CD cover uses (I am guessing) old personal photos to great effect. The liner notes provides trivia points for every track on the album, and Crazy Ballhead delivers heartfelt and intelligent lyrics with a polished flow.
So what could be the problem? The issue is the production. I am willing to admit that I may be just a bit too stuck in my ways when it comes to the technical aspects of hip-hop production. I would like to believe that I am fairly liberal in my outlook on what the parameters of what hip-hop production should be, but there is one area that I just do NOT have any flexibility: drums.
I just believe that it is very important for the drums to get your attention NO MATTER what else you do with the remainder of the track. We call it BOOM BAP for that very reason. The type of drums you choose and how you choose to mix them can make all the difference in the world between creating a banger that is rattling speakerboxes from sea to shining sea or having your recording TOTALLY miss all targets like a student in a beginner's firearm course.
This is bad considering that Crazy Ballhead creates a great poem for the album opener "The Children of Hope". It is a well-written and very well delivered short story that tells the story of his family tree. His mother reads it and the combination of her soothing voice and his powerful writing was as worthy a companion piece to anything I ever heard spit by Maya Angelou.
He also includes an old recording of himself at the age of twelve, using the Pause Tape method to record his own self ('80s babies know what that is).
He also creates a series of POWERFUL narratives for the song "Killing Reflections" that does an incredible job of discussing the insanity of intra-racial homicide in a way that places you right there as the stories are told.
Crazy Ballhead also takes a serious chance by choosing to AVOID sampling of any kind and stick to creating his own exclusive musical compositions. This is a tactic that would have delivered a much higher payoff IF the music had been a bit more aggressive. However, because of the limpness of the drums, the tracks left me unsatisfied despite the fact that I KNEW that I was listening to a skilled and passionate lyricist bleed all over the track.
Nevertheless, no matter how much we all talk about the importance of "breaking the norm," we still expect certain things to be the same. For me, it is hard to love the old boom bap if it does not have the boom bap…no matter what a rapper is saying.
Nervous Picks: "The Children of Hope" and "Killing Reflections."
Music Vibes: 4 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 5.5 of 10
Originally posted: May 20, 2008