Stefon, a.k.a. Stefanino, is an L.A.-based emcee making his debut with “Dislocated Joints”. He’s marketed as an artist who combines street rap with a more-than-subtle influence of R&B. After listening to the album, listeners will find Stefon attempting even more genres than those two, with mixed results.
A few things come to mind when summarizing “Dislocated Joints”. Firstly, the album is really back-loaded. Through the first twelve tracks, only three are memorable (“Superficial,” “Momma’s Boy,” “Dislocated Joints”). In contrast, the final six tracks are bangers. Actually, tracks 13-15 are bangers and tracks 16-18 are respectable, albeit barely different from the original, remixes of already decent songs. Hard to lose here, just don’t make a good song suck. Secondly, it’s difficult to ignore the blatant style-jacking. I know this isn’t a new phenomenon in the rap game, but since Stefon mimics so many styles a little too well, it sticks out like a sore thumb:
Exhibit 1: “Momma’s Boy,” whose opening interlude is eerily similar to Jay-Z’s “December 4th” opening from “The Black Album”. You know the one: “Shawn Carter was born December 4…the only one who didn’t give me any pain when I gave birth to him, and that’s how I knew that he was a special child.” Theme and sound, jacked.
Exhibit 2: “I Wanna Be With You,” where Stefon gets his Bone Thugs on, down to the same inflections. We all know Bone inflected the same way on every song they ever made. Okay, that’s not entirely true but you have to admit a lot of their stuff was indistinguishable. Double-time rhymes and BTNH inflections, jacked.
Exhibit 3: The three remixes on the album (“I Wish I Coulda Told Um (Remix),” “I Wanna Be With You (Remix),” “Stef’s Hop (Remix)”), which are so similar to the originals (all of which are on the album) that it’s as if Stefon jacked from himself. Songs from same album, jacked.
Not to say that “Dislocated Joints” doesn’t have its moments. As I said earlier, after a rocky opening, Stefon surprises us with three excellent songs in a row. “Hollywood” has Stefon unleashing his frustration with A&R’s who’ve passed on him.
“I don’t claim to be the coldest when I spit on this track
But it seems that other shit you signin’ that I’m hearin’ is wack
Could it be that you don’t wanna hear me bang?
And it’s the same thang, these A&R cats runnin’ game, talkin’ lame
Your conversations full of pipe dreams and broken promise
And then you turn around and sign some silly shit that’s garbage
That’s why the radio is full of SHIT
Cause there’s a handful of great emcees that’s on the station that spit
And then you wonder why the game SUCKS
Cause there’s a thousand of us poets with flow but y’all ain’t fuckin’ with us”
The other two, “I Wish I Coulda Told Um (Remix)” and “To Die For,” are tribute tracks. The former is for those who have passed. Okay, maybe this concept was jacked too, but you can’t blame Stefon for this one because who hasn’t made a “dead homies” track? The latter is for his daughter Jazmin. The obvious link here is that both succeed because they’re personal. It’s no coincidence that the songs you really feel are those that aren’t cookie-cutter. Only Stefon can write a song about Jazmin and credit is due for this kind of vulnerability. That’s the window we’re looking for.
“Dislocated Joints,” which apparently refers to a bone ailment that afflicted Stefon growing up (“An adolescent with some crazy bones that clickity-clack” from the title track), shines when Stefon is happy in his own shoes. Stefon is obviously comfortable enough to discuss the woman in his life (Jazmin) and his emotional trauma from his childhood disability on wax, so it baffles me why he doesn’t stick to this throughout the album. Few artists would ever allow us that deeply into their personal lives. I would bet that if this happened, we’d see the beginning of a new trend in hip-hop. Maybe then it will be other artists will be jacking from Stefon.