“As a rule of thumb, it is profoundly unwise to take crack cocaine. The brain has evolved a truly vicious set of negative feedback mechanisms. Their functional effect is to stop us from being truly happy for long. Nature is cruelly parsimonious with pleasure. The initial short-lived euphoria of a reinforcer as uniquely powerful as crack will be followed by a “crash”. This involves anxiety, depression, irritability, extreme fatigue and possibly paranoia. Physical health may deteriorate.” (cocaine.org)

“Crackheadz Gone Wild” is all about people who have been smoking and crashing for years. Headliners Productions and Monkey Hustle Films, the companies behind this successful DVD series, came up with the idea of filming crack addicts in their natural habitat: the ghetto. The first edition “Crackheadz Gone Wild: New York” sold more than 60,000 copies, even though they had to sell their product independently through the website. Due to this success, a Miami-based episode is supposedly in the making, and the second installment of the New York edition has just been distributed.

What is society supposed to think of ex-cons Kyron Hodges and Winfield Gillespie (Headliners) or Lorenzo Hightower (Monkey Hustle)? When these three point a video camera at people who have traded in their dignity for a crack pipe, and earn themselves a decent salary with portraying their misery, what does that say about them? Are they:

a) socially engaged film makers who want to show the inner city grime, and donate a percentage of their earnings to a NY drug rehabilitation centre?
b) cunning business men who cash in on the urge of mankind to laugh their heads off at other people’s expense
c) bottom feeders with as much interest in their ‘actors’ as a serial killer would show to his victims?

There is something to say for all three options, but fact is: This stuff sells! The DVD “Bumfights: Cause for Concern” is living proof of that. A couple of enterprising students took a camera to the streets, and paid drifters to perform Jackass-like stunts for some small change. On of these ‘star actors’ with the illustrious nick name Rufus the Stunt Bum agreed in a drunken stupor to have the word BUMFIGHTS tattooed on his knuckles. When he was sobered up, and found out these were not wash-offs, he sued the film makers and their friends. They don’t care, and haven’t been charged with anything so far. The twosome got mentioned on Howard Stern’s radio show, and boast about becoming ‘multimillionaires.’

It could well happen the NY threesome also gets sued for their ‘documentaries.’ But so far everything is looking peachy, just like for their Bumfights colleagues. For their next project, they teamed up with Hot ’97’s DJ Envy for a soundtrack made for the streets, called “Crackheadz Gone Wild: New York Presents: “I Got That Crack” The Mixtape Vol. 1″

From the look of things, the experienced Envy basically chose to stay away from the provocative subject matter itself, and put together a cross section of the most heavyweight recording artists of the New York state area. Yonkers gets its shine with D-Block’s Styles P and J-Hood, funk doctor Redman kicks up some bricks for New Jersey, and the new label mates from Queens, 50 Cent and Mobb Deep, get room to show their skills. But before these MC’s get their chance, Brooklyn’s Jiggaman starts things off properly with a remarkable roundabout freestyle around the number 4 with “44fours”:

“Roc A Fella forever, holds for life
First debut classic, first album four mics
I should have got a five, but niggas lacked foresight
But I don’t give a fuck
I didn’t do it for the hype
I did it for the hustlers, for the ghetto, for their plight
For the struggle, for those who bubble white, for fly four-by-fours
Ruthless cars, flawless ice
For the pain so y’all can feel what it’s like
For all the times it rained forty days and forty nights”

It is unclear at which concert this was recorded, but it clearly shows that Jay-Z still can easily prove he is a valid contender for the title ‘King of New York.’ Envy cleverly continues with the only other contender for that title. Nas’ ominous “Where Y’All At” sounds like it was recorded in a limo with blinded windows driving through the hood, while Escobar stares out the window, reminiscing:

“The ill whip pusher, my spit wet you
If you stand close to the woofer
Betcha get sprayed by my lecture
Any club with ladies or dimes, I’m a regular
Give it up smooth, I ain’t begging you
Intelligent brainiac, brains maniac
Back of the Maybach, taste that, don’t waste that
Eat with my elbows top of the table
Street etiquette with speech impediments
And still see presidents, no matter who paid
Cause you ain’t take the last dollar made”

When you take a second look at the artists on this tape, one thing does stick out. Most of them -except for Ludacris rhyming he is the best without getting his hands dirty on slinging dope- has been involved in the drug game at a certain point in their life. Philadelphia’s Freeway got his nickname from his days as a crack dealer outrunning the police. Jay-Z allegedly was involved in drug racketeering to solve money problems in the days before he blew up as an artist. 50 Cent hustles CD’s nowadays, but used to be on the street corner under the nickname ‘Boo Boo.’

Not every song on “Crackheadz Gone Wild: New York Presents: “I Got That Crack” The Mixtape Vol. 1″ is enjoyable, but the overall quality DJ Envy squeezed onto this silver CD is satisfactory. Possibly the only spoiler is Headliner’s own MC Dugotti. He has a swift tongue, but his raspy voice sounds sloppy, and doesn’t go well with a dreamy beat which contains a sample of a well-known French synthesizer wizard. “Rider Man” is a peculiar experiment, and a failed one in my opinion. But new material from Redman, Nas, and some very enjoyable freestyle from Styles P, 50 Cent, Jay-Z, and others make this a product that stands out from the rest.

The signals I’m getting from this mixtape is the glorification of selling crack, and the ridicule of the people that got hooked on that crack through the accompanying DVD. Monkey Hustle and Headliner’s claims of educating and entertaining about the ‘drug problem plaguing the inner cities’ sound insincere. If they ever get sued by one of their main characters and ended up in jail, I’m quite sure they wouldn’t allow any camera teams into THEIR own cell block.

DJ Envy :: Crackheadz Gone Wild - New York Presents: "I Got That Crack" The Mixtape Vol. 1
7Overall Score