Drama and Southern rappers often seem to go hand in hand. Mystikal was just sentenced to six years in jail for forcing his hairstylist to perform “sexual acts” on him (translation – he made her give him some head). Last year C-Murder was sentenced to life in prison for the shooting of a 16 year-old boy. Not that his brother fared any better – Master P was picked up for trying to carry a clip of hollow tip bullets through a Newark airport checkpoint. Project Pat is doing a 7-year bid right now for violating his parole after being convicted on two counts of carrying a firearm. And even though there are little details surrounding his incarceration, Turk seems to have done a bid between 2001’s “Young & Thuggin’” and 2003’s “Raw & Uncut,” prompting¬†Cash Money Records¬†to drop him from the label.

Perhaps the reason there aren’t as many details on Turk’s lock-up out there is because he simply isn’t as well known as his former Hot Boys brethern. Juvenile was consistantly their highest profile and best selling member, while B.G. and Lil Wayne each developed very strong cult followings. Turk by comparison was the black sheep, having only one solo album for Cash Money while his co-horts had over a half-dozen total between them for the imprint. One might therefore assume Turk actually views his incarceration and subsequent release from the label as a blessing in disguise, because now that he’s “free” he can raise his profile with a new label and establish himself as the underrated Southern MC he’s always claimed to be.

Produced largely by Kenoe from “My Life as a Mack” fame, the first challenge for Turk is for the beats of “Raw & Uncut” to equal the quality of what his former label’s chief producer Mannie Fresh could offer. It’s hard to say this holds true for the entire 60 minutes of this 15 track long album, but there are numerous moments that shine. The underground hit “Cock Aim Shoot” is the most clever use of gunfire to create a beat in a long time, and has the electronic Southern bounce to shake any car or club. KLC of the Medicine Men provides a powerfully loud bass, gritty funk and sharp staccato ivories for the lead single “Amped Up.” Hot Boys fans will feel nostalgic for the good ol’ days hearing the “Putcharaggsup Remix” with Kenoe’s eeriely Fresh-like beat and B.G.’s guest rap. Don Wuan’s beat on “Penitentiary Chances” is almost comically nursery school, but that very sound and Turk’s oddly light-hearted style and sung chorus for such a serious subject make it work – you can’t fault either for coming original. “Dat Look” featuring Bubba Sparxxx is bound to be a favorite, and Kenoe’s machine gun drums at the start fuel an energetic attack of ominous bass and quick 16ths drum riffs. From the smoothed out soul of “I Been Through Dat” to the salsafied “Who Put it Together,” Kenoe’s music shines through and the guest producers rock too. Kenoe proves himself a worthy rival to Fresh.

As for the rhymes themselves, the gift and the curse of Turk’s mic work are one in the same. “I cain’t, be, fucked with, nig-GAH” spits Turk in the intro “U Thought it Was Over,” but if you didn’t know it was his disc spinning under the laser you might mistake him for Lil Wayne. He might be slightly higher pitched, he might not, but there’s no disputing they share an eerie N’Awlins similarity to each other. Topically, the two pretty much rap about the same things too – busting guns, having fun, making money and eliminating enemies. Turk’s third verse on “Cock Aim Shoot” is more or less endemic to the album as a whole:

“Look, I’m tellin ya – nigga I’ma speak one time
One time only after that no warnin
Bullets start stormin, I’m wettin you up
Talk shit, then I’m shuttin you up, motherfucker
Thinkin you’re teflon and you got nine lives
Better think again ‘fore you get shot nine times
Cross the gun line you don’t wanna do that
You don’t wanna go to war you ain’t ready for that”

It’s not necessarily a failure of Turk’s to have repetitive themes though, nor to be “gangstafied” in his topic matter. The Hot Boys in general and Turk in particular have never claimed to be more sophisticated than that sans Juvenile, and even he still predominantly features urban crime tales on his albums. If Turk was aiming to make the album lyrically conducive to the core audience it is targetted at, he certainly succeeded. Still for those who are not a fan of the style or topic matter, and even for some that are, the verbiage may come across as slightly banal or cliched. Turk succeeds though largely on three fronts: the strength of his beats, a stronger than average amount of charisma in his delivery, and his motivation to show just how “Raw & Uncut” he really is. Those who were feeling his “Young & Thuggin’” album might find it to not only be a worthy follow-up, but it some ways much improved.

Turk :: Raw and Uncut
7Overall Score