When God gave out monikers, Fuse and Fat Meezy were blessed with two of the most typical rap handles imaginable. But did He also provide them with the solid talent to go along with it? That’s a tale their debut album, the cryptically titled “From The Earth 2 Da Dirt,” will have to tell. Representing Evanston (Fuse) and Englewood (Meezy), the two have been working together since ’98, appearing on mixtapes and doing shows around Chicago. Intentionally or not, the duo make it evident early on that this is local hip-hop from the very outskirts of this so-called rap game. All it takes is the initial introduction “You know who it is / the niggas that rock the party while the ladies bounce to this” and the subsequent invitation “All them killers and them thugs bust a shot to this / b-boys in the club, just rock to this / everybody from the ‘burbs to metropolis / haters keep on talkin’, ain’t no stoppin’ this,” and you know that Fuse & Fat Meezy are used to catering to a highly mixed clientele. The smaller a hip-hop scene, the more diverse usually its participants and audience. B-boys coexist with thugs, veterans share the stage with newcomers, those who want to hear an MC flex his skills rub shoulders with those who just came to dance. And up in the mix of action you got Fuse & Fat Meezy, two rappers trying to do their thing, making sure they get paid for their performance: “Put the cash in our hands / and no negotiatin’ cause we makin’ demands / takin’ a stand, time waits for no man.”
As much as you gotta love local hip-hop for its ability to bring together normally disparate factions, often the music that actually comes out of this miniature melting pot isn’t very convincing. If your major selling point is that you’re from such-and-such corner or cul-de-sac, that may be enough for the folks who call the same hood or burb their home, but it’s not quite enough for the rest of us. Fuse & Fat Meezy may promote themselves as ‘the new voices of Midwest hip-hop,’ but in reality they’re not exactly offering anything the Midwest could be particularly proud of. Let’s take “Hustler’s Anthem” and “Five-O,” two uninspired tracks about selling weed and hassles with the authorities, respectively. Each one of us could name a hundred more interesting tracks on those subjects on the spot. “Five-O” exposes Fuse and Fat Meezy’s technical limits, as they flow crudely over an equally crude beat. “Hustler’s Anthem” is nothing more than the annoying sales pitch of two small-time hustlers. As we venture further into the album, the negatives keep adding up. “Those That Care” takes the low-budget keyboard approach that hasn’t really gotten any less suspect since it first reared its ugly head in indie hip-hop circles. “This Life I Lead” samples a Tony Montana who offers more insight in three sentences than Fat Meezy during three verses. But sometimes it’s the thought that counts, hence Meezy’s lament of a dead female friend, “Missing You,” is a commendable effort. It should also be mentioned that the duo stays away from clichÃ©d gangsta posturing.
Fuse is generally the better grounded rapper, leading the way with a more comfortable voice and flow. But throughout the album there are only a handful of verses delivered with enough sophistication, the rest is hampered by underdeveloped breath control and rhythm. Most of the beats are no help either, as the sometimes too basic, sometimes too hectic bass/drum combos are liable to drain the remaining confidence from Fuse and Fat Meezy’s flows, such as on “I Came to Party,” an otherwise decent beat by Q-Hefna emitting a live band atmosphere but ruined by a confused bassline. Arock’s “Need Mine” (sped-up soul sample alert) channels at least a certain amount of passion and Big D’s “Believe That” profits from a refined arrangment and sound, combining rhythmically triggered, melodical bass bits with a calm stream of thick drums and keyboard layers. Overall, “From The Earth 2 Da Dirt”‘s strongest suit are the club joints. “Let’s Dip,” “Spinit Back” and “Round,” while failing to meet professional standards, definitely deserve some spins on a local level, especially “Round,” which is their way of saying “I like big butts” (as Seattle’s Sir Mix-A-Lot once put it.) By far the best track however is Fuse’s solo “Grind Hard,” sounding like an underground version of Xzibit’s “Hey Now (Mean Muggin’).” And grinding hard is exactly what Fuse & Fat Meezy will have to continue to do if they ever want to reach a larger audience.