This CD came packaged as part of a DVD set of the same name sold by Wrestling Observer Shoots. As such the hip-hop tie-in might not be obvious at first until you learn that the executive producer is The Cancer a/k/a Ric Atari and some of featured artists on this soundtrack are from his Blacktree Music record label (namely Atari, Jai Black, Azar, Sam Freeze and Soto). It's worth noting that I don't think this CD can be purchased separately from the DVD either physically or as a download; furthermore if you're not a fan of the wrestler Abdullah the Butcher or what they call in the business a "shoot video" where they get wrestlers to break character you would never have come across this disc. That being said it's worth covering just because Ric Atari is one of Atlanta's most hustling hip-hop entrepreneurs. There's no doubt if you didn't already know him as a producer for the Dirty South's best rappers, you will get to know him as an artist or a music industry mogul in the near future.
"The Life and Times of Abdullah the Butcher" is not strictly a hip-hop album. The Cancer opts to feature a full range of diversity from guest contributions to this soundtrack. The album opens with Jai Black's track "Showdown." Black's background includes being the lead singer for a R&B group in Europe, although his sound on "Showdown" is actually much closer to hard rock than rhythm and blues. The closest comparisons to his style on the song are Doug Pinnick or Lajon Witherspoon, with just a hint of Jimi Hendrix or Cee Lo Green as a chaser (though certainly not as high pitched as the latter). The opener is close enough to familiar themes that rap audiences would go for it, but the same can't be said of Daisy Wheel's "Love Love Go Away." Their song would fall comfortably into the alternative rock sound of the mid-1990's, but it's 2010. The album doesn't have any info about their lead singer but he doesn't impress - he's another garage band vocalist who thinks he'll be the next Chris Cornell someday. He won't. The first strictly hip-hop track is the third entry by Chez called "To the Top":
"They got me hollerin like AYY! I'm goin straight to the top
And when I come from the bottom can I get my props?
Don't hate (don't hate) don't hate (nigga)
Don't hate (don't hate) don't hate
They got me hollerin like AYY! Next time you look for me
Look up, I guarantee that's where I'm gon' be
I'm on my way (on my way) on my way
Here what I say? I'm on my way (on my way) on my way"
Cancer's production really helps push Chez up from run of the mill to above average - it's big, brassy and bombastic. Chez' rap doesn't hit on themes that any other "I'm struggling now but you'll wish you'd rode my jock when I get large" rapper hasn't, but in terms of putting thoughts into his rhymes and delivery he's LEAGUES ahead of artists like Waka Flocka and Shawty Lo. He also benefits from a sing-song quality to his delivery and enough reverb that he becomes his own chorus. The next song deviates back in the direction of Daisy Wheel, although Soto's "Cruisin'" works far better than that track. It's got a light breezy swing with a chorus of girls harmonizing "doo doo doo" and a singer who knows how to play it just right when trying to make a top down ridin' around summer anthem. This leads us into Ric Atari's only solo track on the entire soundtrack - "My Girl":
"'Member when I met you, you was smooth and cool as licked ice
Midnight, black and acrobatic for a thick type
Used to go and see her cause lil' momma had the get right
Chronically and sonically we fit tight
Spent nights kushin Marvin Gaye and uh, watchin movies layin up
Never thought that you would flip, 180 we start to trip
I thought you said that you agreed that we didn't need a relationship
So why you on my phone at 3 AM drunk pleadin yo' case and shit?"
Cancer provides himself a backdrop which sounds like a opera singing a epic opus in the first verse, then drops it out for the second to allow the beat and melody to take front and center, before letting it all fade out smoothly on a track that definitely could have been another verse and 90 seconds longer. He follows it with a "Smoke Break" instrumental though that's got some SERIOUS bass kick if you're playing it on a good stereo or in a car with big subwoofers. It's reminiscent of a DJ Quik instrumental break for all the right reasons.
Regrettably the soundtrack peaks at this point and starts to go downhill. It's not that Azar isn't a good singer for "On the Edge," but her vocals seem to distort and I don't hear anything that makes her stand out in a genre already crowded with divas like Beyonce, Ciara, Mary J. Blige, Keyshia Cole, et cetera. New Era f/ Sam Freeze "GO!!!" is okay but it only makes me want to hear Sam solo (which you can do on the Blacktree website). Love Collector sounds like a bad Billie Joe Armstrong ripoff - speedy punk rock that's nowhere near Green Day good. G Mane is better than Gucci Mane but that's not really saying a lot since farting into a Casio SK-1 would also be better. Somehow hearing him quote from Biggie's "Juicy" repeatedly just does both men a disservice. I just can't get down with the country twang and country SANG of J.R. Shelby on "Bring it On." I have to think that country music fans would also consider him not quite ready for the Grand Ole Opry either. He seems like a very formulaic artist but at least he follows that formula well.
On the whole "The Life and Times of Abdullah the Butcher" soundtrack surprised me, which in some ways is a good thing. There's some hip-hop shit, some dope bass hitting in your car ass shit... and some country. There are times when it achieves its goals but not nearly for long enough or consistently enough to please hip-hop fans. To be fair that's not really the goal of this soundtrack though, which reflects Abdullah the Butcher's wrestling career in that it appeals to a wide range of people for different reasons. Jai Black, Chez and Soto do sound like they have the talent and potential to go on and do even better things so here's to their future endeavors.
Music Vibes: 5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 5 of 10
Originally posted: October 12, 2010