Underground Southern rap music can at times be frustrating. While I do appreciate that the scene has developed to the point that rappers can get independent distribution and put their albums in major retail spots (Best Buy in this case) it’s ridiculous that some of them don’t think about to best use the available opportunity. E.S.G.’s “Family Business” doesn’t have any kind of track listing on the back cover or the inside to tell you the name of the songs on the CD. In fact the album’s insert is a single sided sheet reminiscent of the days when Rap-A-Lot Records was at their cheapest.

Of course once you actually put in “Family Business” to listen to it, you realize how pointless a track listing would actually be. The first song blatantly rips off and remakes 2Pac’s “Ambitionz Az a Ridah.” The second track doesn’t even bother to rip off T.I.’s “You Don’t Know Me” – they just rap over the instrumental. Rapping over other people’s beats is pretty common for most Southern mixtape CD’s, but this album is not marked as a mixtape. In fact I was expecting a release akin to E.S.G.’s seminal “Ocean of Funk” release. Of course that album is nearly a decade old by now, and E.S.G. had a son in the interim who is grown and rapping – rapping on this album. He’s not in his teens though – or if he is then his voice hasn’t dropped yet. It’s more like he’s a cross between Da Youngstas and Shyheim back when he was still the Rugged Child.

That’s not the only rapper not named E.S.G. on this album though. The name “Family Business” is actually an indication that E.S.G. has his own “rap family” on the album. Brandon Stacks, E.S.G. and Carmen San Diego form S.E.S. collectively. I guess that’s like WWE’s Mecury, Nitro and Melina forming MNM, but the problem is that the S.E.S. is not as talented and they’re twice as opinonated about how great they are. Hearing E.S.G. imitate hits by Slim Thug and The Game would be one thing. I can deal with him rapping the chorus to “Like a Boss” and “How We Do” and even attempting to flow the same way they do or use some of the same words in the same places. Hearing all three members of S.E.S. do it though, including the very untalented Carmen San Diego (the bitch needs a better rap name to boot) takes it from being flattering imitation to insincere attempts to come off fresh.

Most Southern rappers who do albums over other people’s instrumentals are at least smart enough to kick their own raps their own way, doing freestyle raps with their own original hooks. There’s nothing clever though about hearing Young Buck’s “Shorty Wanna Ride” turned from a song featuring one rapper into a whack posse song of three people who collectively don’t have the talent in his left pinkie. That’s not fair though. E.S.G. is actually a much better rapper than he shows here. He’s got a wealth of experience in Houston under his belt and undoubtedly deserves to be recognized on the same level as Ludacris if not more in terms of the dues that he’s paid. “Family Business” won’t be the album to convince those who aren’t familiar with his legacy of how worthy he is of getting props. They’re just going to hear whack remakes of songs like Ja Rule’s “New York” and Snoop Dogg’s “Drop it Like it’s Hot.” As a mixtape this album would have worked. As original freestyles over other people’s beats it could have worked. “Family Business” is an E.S.G. album you should avoid though. The next time you’re rapping along to a 2Pac classic, find the instrumental instead and record yourself flowing. Play it back. Does it sound bad? Now you know why not to buy this CD.

E.S.G. :: Family Business