Playa Rae/Trey C/Tha Critic :: Facetime :: Monstaville Music
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Facetime] The last time RR heard from Playa Rae was when Pedro 'DJ Complejo' Hernandez reviewed "Days Like This" back in 2008. Since then Rae has kept his hustle poppin', expanding his Monstaville Music imprint and working to make it a hip-hop force in San Jose and the Cali scene as a whole. To Rae's credit he's also trying to reach out to hip-hop heads outside the local market, even though it has often been said you can go gold or platinum in Cali and still be unknown in the rest of America. That occasionally leads to a level of insularity which makes it hard to get widespread coverage, but Monstaville Music wants to break the mold and do more than go gold.

So with that said, Rae has decided to form a supergroup of fellow artists and dub both the crew and the album "Facetime." This is something Rae's had experience with before, as he previously joined with Texas rappers Fade Dogg and Gemini to form a group called Gamebreakerz. As Pedro noted in his Playa Rae review, the project made some noise, but ultimately didn't cause a revolution for Rae or the other latino rappers involved. Accordingly I don't get the feeling that heritage is a focus on this one, unless being a Californian is now an ethnicity. Trey C hails from the North Bay, and Tha Critic like Rae is from San Jose. The self-titled opening track lets you know more about their steelo:

"Uhh, yeah, I be just who I oughta be
Say West coast Trey, all God damn day, any time that Dawg's recording me
Welcome to the 'Ville where ink gets spilled, beats get killed, we for real
Manufacture all in house and turned down plenty decent deals
It's how I was taught, out the trunk's the only way
So I linked with the boys in the bottom of the Bay in San Jose
[...] Never banged blue, never banged red
Get it through your head, I ain't no G, my only focus gettin that bread"

Dawg in this case refers to Ant Dawg, who did all the studio recording for this album. Production on this opener and two other tracks is handled by Mister KA, who has a surprisingly Floridian sound for a Bay Area album. Several times during the opener I expected Rick Ross to break in over the energetic and speedy synths, or to suddenly hear DJ Khaled scream "WE THE BEST." As musical formulas go it's not a bad one for KA to imitate, which is why I like his combo of big bass, horror movie piano, and quick electronic notes of "Say About Me" featuring Smigg Dirtee. "I'm Gone" is also up tempo but it's a more California take on the sound, riding a little closer to The Pack or New Boyz, occasionally bordering on minimalism during the verses. KA is a producer to keep an eye on.

Rob Base is heavy on this album behind the scenes, producing 6 out of 10 songs overall, but without proof one way or the other I strongly suspect this isn't the same Rob Base from Harlem who rapped on the seminal hip-hop hit "It Takes Two." He also does a good to above average job on the music, coming through really strongly on "Da, Da, Da" with a backdrop that seems to take off like a missile and a style that for whatever reason reminds me of a Paul Wall track, in a good way. "Shine" is also a good example of his style, and seems the most likely candidate out of any of the ten tracks here for some crossover radio play. The crew might be rugged, but here they play it smooth:

"Fresh out the barbershop, I'm lookin good, a clean fade
Plus I'm feelin good about that moves that I'm 'bout to make
Before I leave, chunk a deuce to Mike
As I'm headin to the car, I'm seein somethin I like
A little beautiful thang, but she ain't crackin a smile
It make a player wonder if she been approached in a while
I said - lemme guess, that relationship
And every man in your life, you ain't got no patience with - I get it
But let me hip you to a player like me
I love the life and I sure could use some company, shit
We can talk over a Jamba Juice
I made you smile, didn't I, like I'm 'sposed to do"

Although some of the tracks may nod to Florida and Texas in production style, the overall sound of the album and the rappers involved is distinctively California. At times it can be more Long Beach than Bay Area on songs like "Keep Me Up" but that's not a deficit as listeners will appreciate the breezy sound, and even when it gets a little harder on songs like "Strip" it's still got a light albeit admittedly misogynistic tone. You can't categorize the work of Playa Rae, Tha Critic and Trey C as being overly profound, but you also can't accuse them of coming across false or trying to be what they're not. It may not break new ground in sound for San Jose or the rest of the country, but for rappers who profess to have learned their hustle selling out of the trunk, I think this one will sell in stores fairly well.

Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10

Originally posted: August 2nd, 2011