As a DJ, you sometimes have a tendency to pigeonhole people by the song they request. Sometimes you are right, while other times you couldn’t be further off. I’m usually on point on picking out the NY cats, and the Southern folks, but it seems like I am always right with this one. “Ayo, can you play some go-go music?” “Sure playa, you from DC huh?” “Yup”. Well, Big Lew (better known as Popeye Reds) is out to change all of that and show everyone that DC is a lot more than crooked politicians and go-go music.
As soon as I saw the promo stickers, I had a little feeling of deja-vu. I then realized that I have seen this green and black ad before with the guy picking his nose in The Source a few times. Don’t let yourself be fooled by the ad though, turns out Big Lew’s been doin it since ’92, not to mention holding down a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and Management from Howard University. Oh, and did I mention he does his own production (with the exception of one track)? This sure ain’t no dummy.
Beatwise, Big Lew tries to change things up a little bit. No violins, horns, or overused instruments like that. If you pay attention to “Fuck It” featuring labelmate Cosign, you’ll realize that the percussion in the background are steel drums, which comes off ILL. Clever piano riffs like the hypnotic “Thug Passion” show that Big Lew isn’t a novice when it comes to his production. Over top of the steel drums, pianos, whistles and wind chimes of Big Lew’s tracks are driving basslines, that seem to move the LP along. The reggae tinged “Crew Love” feature Edley Shine formerly of Born Jamericans is by far the best track production wise as well as lyrically on the album and should have been chosen as the first single instead of “How We Do” which wouldn’t have been bad if it weren’t for a god-awful opening verse by annoying guest Nonchalant. Big Lew provides a rowdy bassline which perfectly compliments Edley’s reggae rhythms and motivates Big Lew to spit ferociously.
“It’s on the line
Money, as long as it’s abundant
Stacks of hundreds, all big faces
The little one’s I won’t ha!
Buckets of duckets
I want that whole cookie
Fuck the crumbs
I want that silent shit
Fuck the ones”
Other tracks aren’t as pleasant lyrically. Tracks like “T&A” and “Makin Love or Can We Fuck” employ that tired ass “I can do you better than so and so” routine. On “There I Go” featuring Too Short and E-40, Big Lew rhymes “We spendin cash/you gobble up the dicks /And when we finsih, we drop bombs/You call them hits?/Yall said it/You can’t make a ho into a housewife” uuuum sure. I thought my stereo skipped or something and put two different verses together. By this point in the song it doesn’t matter, because if E-40’s homemade “slanguage” and charisma doesn’t make you smile, then Short Dogg will no doubt get you with some good ole’ classic pimp shit. Other collaborations like “Soldiers” featuring Scarface and B-Legit work a little better, and while Big Lew won’t dazzle anyone with complex lyrics, his ever changing flow that adapts to the beats keeps him iteresting. This ability to not sound monotonous, and use the same flow all the time is something that some of today’s most respected emcees (e.g. Jadakiss) still do.
Far from wack, but not about to change anything, Playa Hatin 101 is a solid effort. Big Lew may have found his had in the production market, and with some work, his tracks might sound nice under some of today’s emcees, as well as himself if he develops a bit lyrically. One thing is true though, Big Lew will continue doing it his way, leaving no room for those who choose to hate. I ain’t mad at ya Lew.