For most artists, having a famous parent tends to arouse a litany of concerns and unfair expectations. One needs only look at Julian and Sean Lennon, Ky-Mani and Damien Marley, Jakob Marley of the Wallflowers, Kelly Osbourne and Lil Romeo to realise that more often than not, these celebrated offspring have failed to eclipse the omnipresent shadow of their parentage. However, while the aforementioned artists drank from a more inspired genetic well, Cory Gunz has sprung from more humble artistic origins, being the son of Peter Gunz. As one half of the short-lived duo Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz (why on earth did Tariq leave Money Bo$$ Playas for them?), Peter Gunz’ ability as an emcee has often been maligned, a circumstance that is both the gift and the curse for Gunz Jr. – while it virtually eliminates any controversy over nepotism (Gunz hasn’t exactly been setting the industry on fire of late) and lowers any preconceived expectations over his talent, it doesn’t exactly prompt one to check him out, either. I mean, if someone told me Flava Flav’s child was holding it down on the mixtape circuit, I can’t earnestly say that I’d be too excited about hearing him. Thankfully, Cory Gunz has done a Nasir Jones on this joint – easily exceeding his underwhelming paternal lineage and creating a distinctive legacy all his own.
While his pedigree may not be very distinguished, Cory Gunz arrives with deafeningly rapturous industry buzz, straddling a steady wave of hype generated by New York’s foremost mixtape tastemakers, several appearances on the Smack DVD series and ceaseless promotion provided by his larger-than-life godfather, Shaquille O’Neal. Factor in the fact that he’s in his mid-teens and you have great reason to include him in the ‘up and coming’ list that you draw up to impress all your friends. Don’t get it twisted, though, Cory’s age doesn’t have the quaint novelty of Bow Wow’s, nor does he exploit it as a marketable quality- like Shyheim and Da Youngstas before him, his subject matter is just as forceful and insistent as any of his seniors.
In true mixtape fashion, Gunz uses a host of popular instrumentals to flex his unique delivery over self-styled dubplates. To Cory’s credit, he has developed a highly original delivery that draws from an intriguing mix of influences – while he tends to hover around typical territory from a lyrical standpoint (thugs, drugs and guns), his cadence fluctuates between Kane impersonation (remarkably on Kane’s own beat on “Kane Freestyle”) to Fu-Schnicks scat (“You Ain’t Gangsta” with The Game) to Twista by way of Bone Thugs (“Art of War Freestyle”). Unfortunately, while one can hardly fault young Gunz for effort – his youthful exuberance and ravenous ambition seeps through the cracks of every track on offer here, one invariably realises that it’s almost impossible to keep up with Gunz’ tongue-twisting endeavours. It took Twista and the Bone Thugs years to realise that they would have to compromise their breakneck delivery for commercial viability, and as novel as his excursions into hyperspeed rap are, Cory needs to have the same revelation. Cory’s attention to structure and meter is certainly laudable (dude sounds like a sped-up Big L meets Kool G Rap sometimes), and while he displays remarkable wit when the speed relents a little bit, there are far too many moments on the disc where he loses himself in an incessant cascade of rapid-fire, incomprehensible hyperbabble. These moments are so prevalent throughout the disc that it suggests that Gunz is intent on relying on his tendency to shift into warp speed as an artistic crutch, that it will become a gimmick.
Ultimately, this is far from a poor release – each track on this recording bursts at the seams with promise and to some degree justifies the clamorous accolades that have followed him in recent months. However, one inevitably feels like this is but an embryonic stage in Gunz’ career, and that his burgeoning potential can only be realised if he eases off the breakneck gibberish. Otherwise, an intriguing sonic portrait of a cool new emcee – keep your eyes peeled for this one.