One aspect that gives hip-hop its edge over other musical genres is that it refuses to be contained. The music industry is a frigid place where you won’t find many silver spoons or hand-outs. The hungriest cats won’t wait around for majors to catch on. They’ll promote what they want, when they want, the way they want to. Mixtapes are the result of this mentality. This street-level self-promotion has given artists independence and the ability to generate their own buzz. The downside to this self-sufficiency is a watered-down market. For many artists hoping to get put on, the dream is real but the talent is not. I have the utmost respect for their hustle and will always support independent artists trying to get in the game. At the same time, it’s my responsibility and privilege to have an audience that trusts my judgment and for that I must always be true in my words.

I typically go into song-specific detail for the albums I review, but there really isn’t that much to say for this one. The featured artists are Luc Duc, Duck Down, Marcy Malone, Screwface, Steven Hall, Rhian Stoute, Bridget, and Tony Banks. All the cuts are vocals spit over instrumentals from the played-out commercial rotation. “Breathe”, “1, 2 Step”, “How We Do”, you name it. Even worse, the new interpretations are clearly inferior to the originals. The subject matter never strays from hustlin’, thuggin’, and pimpin’. If you need a point of reference, “Florida Classic” is like a really, really poor man’s Cash Money. Like Masta Ace once said, “I’d rather hear a Lil’ Wayne, Lil’ Zane duet”.

A major disappointment comes in the form of heavily-hyped femcee Marcy Malone. At last count, she collected just under 50,000 name-drops throughout the compilation and is featured on 14 of the album’s 15 tracks (excluding six skits). She never really distinguishes herself as a unique artist, sticking to cliches and unimaginative rhymes. Most headlining emcees have some sort of distinctive X-factor, but I haven’t heard anything from her that would justify all the hype coming from her running mates. The low point is “I Just Wanna Kick It”, an astonishingly bad remake of Mario’s “Let Me Love You” with the crew’s resident R&B crooner Steven Hall singing the chorus. Hall is as generic a R&B singer as you’ll ever find, the store-brand soft drink stocked next to bottles of Pepsi and Coca-Cola.

A few of the members showed flickers of promise. Duck Down and Rhian Stoute caught my attention periodically with competent bars. I say “bars” because not once did I find an entire 16-bar verse that was impressive. The flashes came in increments of a few couplets. Maybe it’s the jumbled nature of mixtapes that suffocates their abilities. I’d be interested to see how these two would perform given the opportunity on a less cluttered album.

Overall, “Florida Classic” is just like any demo you’d find being hustled at the nearest street corner or flea market, complete with half-baked, ill-conceived freestyles over radio jams. Not everyone that picks up a mic will be the next Jay-Z, Nas, or KRS-One. Sometimes it’s best to leave it to the professionals to do their thing. “Florida Classic” is an utter failure because it’s completely unoriginal, lyrically and musically.

Various Artists :: Florida Classic Mixtape
2Very Poor