It’s likely that someone reading this review is going to misinterpret the honest and critical assessment of Maceo’s value to the hip-hop music scene as “haterizing.” To be fair let’s have Maceo answer back right here and now with a quote from his album’s title track “Straight Out Da Pot”:
“Man I’m 19 now, by 21 years old
I’ll be 20 times better than that crew you on
I guarantee if you don’t like me, your son or your friend do
If not dem then, someone you’re kin to”
Fair enough. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who do like Maceo. After all he got national distribution for “Straight Out Da Pot” and the sticker on the shrinkwrap lists FOUR hit singles: “Go Sit Down”, “Nextel Chirp”, “Ladies & Gentleman” and “On My Way” in that order. It’s a little odd to me how I’ve never listened to any of these songs on XM Radio or heard any discussion of how great Maceo is from anybody given this young 19-year-old rapper has FOUR hit singles, but never mind that. In truth living up to that kind of hype, especially for a rapper just starting out at such a young age, has got to be damn near impossible.
Now that we’re done providing Maceo with an assertive defense, let’s get down to brass tacks. Being young and new on the scene is just no excuse for using cliched ideas, having a poorly developed lyrical style, and at times speaking on some straight up ignorant bullshit. The album’s “Intro” covers two of those three stipulations in one shot. In case you hadn’t already guessed it “Da Pot” is not a description of where he comes from (that’s actually Kirkwood, on the Eastside of Atlanta) but of what he does. Not since Master P actually provided a recipe for cooking crack has such an openly baldfaced depiction of being a street pharmacist been put on wax. We actually listen Maceo ask his partner for a fork and some baking soda as his cocaine bubbles in the background, as he brags about how he has to “stay working with this shit” because his uncut is so high quality it’s “locking up so damn quick.” When he finally gets around to rapping, it’s not much better:
“Whip it, whip it, now you flop
Mine go platinum as soon as it drop
Understand that if you don’t then you’re stupid
Gotta keep up dawg don’t lose it
Trap be buckin when I hit the street
Bullshit niggaz they don’t wanna fuckin eat
Only thing they gon’ cause is beef
That’s the only thang”
Most rappers who talk about being ghetto pharmacists at least give the impression their dirt is past tense, whereas Maceo sounds like he could have been arrested for it right while recording his album. Maceo can’t even use the justification that he was just hustling to make enough to get in the game, which is the common argument of drug dealers turned rap artists. If he’s doing the dirt at the same time he’s rapping that doesn’t work. Maceo’s work here is not a fictional narrative warning others not to get in the life, the kind of urban street cinema brought to life by poets like Kool G. Rap and Scarface. Yes it’s just a skit and no crack is really being made, but I’m definitely not amused. Sooner or later somebody has to be accountable for straight up glorifying being a death merchant. 4 out of 5 gangster rappers can walk the fine line between talking about it and glorifying it, but Maceo crossed that line a long time ago and seems to be in no hurry to cross back.
Putting the overwhelmingly negative start to Maceo’s album aside, there’s not much positive to find beyond that point. “Go Sit Down” is actually subtitled “Ho Sit Down,” and while the former was probably more PC the latter more accurately fits the song. Male machismo is taken to it’s misogynistic extreme as Maceo and his guest Marco “take nuttin from these bitches” as they run down women as being singularly interested in riding their jocks and trying to get their cash. They brag about knocking women down with elbows and not giving a fuck whether they get up again or not. It’s not as bad as Ice Cube saying he wanted to kick a pregnant woman in her stomach, but even to a jaded rap listener it’s still pretty disgusting. You could try to just concentrate on the beat and ignore the lyrics, but the beat ‘Fats’ provided Maceo is so obnoxiously repetitive that you can’t do it – you have to pay attention to the rap instead, and that’s not good.
By far Maceo’s biggest problem is not that he’s glorifying drug sales or acting like an immature little female bashing neanderthal. Plenty of rappers before him have done it and plenty will long after he’s gone. His biggest problem is an incredibly simplistic rhyme structure and vocal delivery. Besides being an incredibly bad rip-off of “Around the Way Girl” and “Freek-a-Leek,” the song “I Want” suffers from a vocal approach so mechanical you could rap the alphabet to it. Q-R-S, T-U-V. Duyba X, Y and Z. Say it a few times and you’ve got Maceo’s flow down. With such a limited flow mechanic it’s hard to insert anything verbally creative into the structure. Would you be surprised to know he doesn’t?
“All different races, two of ’em Asian
Three of ’em Haitian, fo’ ’em Jamaican
Two of ’em taken, two of ’em light-skinned
Fo’ of ’em dark-skinned plus she brought three friends”
Wow, that’s deep. Maceo tries to vary up his ignorance with hood tributes like “The Struggle” that just comes off like a Bone Thugs rip-off, and wannabe street anthems like “Nextel Chirp” which tries to make the sound of a two-way phone’s beep the next big hip-hop accessory. That’s not going to work because once again, Fats provides an incredibly monotonous beat. It’s not as though Fats hasn’t mastered the levels and doesn’t put enough bass and kick into his mix, it’s just that he only creates one bar of it and loops it ad nauseum. The recoding industry has tried hard as hell to make sampling a crime for rap artists, and the result is a lot of poorly conceived self-made beats that qualify as being sample free but just don’t sound that good. Even when every rapper used the same James Brown loop, at least it was a good James Brown song to begin with.
I really wish there was more one could say about Maceo’s “Straight Out Da Pot” but for his sake it’s best not to. This is eighteen tracks of bullshit. I would have said unrefined bullshit, but he obviously spent enough time cooking it in “Da Pot” to boil it down to what he believes is the straight up rock that’s going to sell hand over fist. Well if ignorant raps and bullshit tracks are what you’re into, this will sell very well. Maceo or his kinfolk may be mad that a reviewer would be this honest, but I’m just as mad somebody didn’t slap him upside the head a long time ago. It’s not haterizing when you’re being honest, because everything I’ve said about this album is 100% true. Maceo has wasted my time but hopefully I’ve at least saved some of you $12.99.