Louisville, Kentucky is a city that gets little exposure in the rap game. I first learned about the town years ago when I was in a summer program with about 100 other “under-privileged” minorities, some of who happened to be from there. One of my Louisville boys had a strong preference towards No Limit Records and claimed to have every CD dropped on the label up to that point. Being that this was before the Colonel had signed a distribution deal with Priority, I was impressed, if a bit put off since not every album in their catalog is worth owning. So while I was well aware of Louisville and what I assume was a universal penchant for gangsta rap, few people give the city much attention outside of collegiate sports. 10 Crown is looking to change that with their debut release. The crew consists of 7 emcees and friends who grew up together in Louisville’s 10 Crown district.

To sum them up, 10 Crown is a gangsta rap group. They try to put a spin on their music and even label themselves “club music” but the simple truth is that they are gangsta rappers. Being that they are from the south, it’s no surprise. It’s also no surprise that as gangsta rappers they suffer from some of the same generic trash every other gangsta rapper feels compelled to put on their album. “Midwest Trick & Downsouth Ho” is guilty of pairing a horrendous title (are we in Memphis and is this 1990?) with an equally horrendous song. Do we really need another track putting down women? “Put Yo Shyt On The Map” also sounds like a title taken off an underground tape and is another track aiming to have people represent their hood/city/state. “DucTape” is the perfect track to play when you’re having a Scott Peterson moment and need that added motivation to “duck tape ‘em up, dump ‘em in the trunk.” “Don’t Doubt My Click” is more of the same as 10 Crown finds it necessary to proclaim how hard they are just in case any doubt ever crossed your mind.

At this point I’m sure you are first wondering how anyone would try to label 10 Crown as anything but gangsta rap, and second wondering why I said they suffer from “some” of the same generic trash when it seems they consist of nothing but generic trash. Well, 10 Crown gets points because despite the ignorance and generic nature of about 75% of the album, they try to rise above that. “We Be Stressin” is the typical “life is hard” track expected from gangsta rappers. Technically this type of track is also becoming cliché, but at least it’s different. “How We Ride” is another attempt at being different as the crew attempts to put a spin on car anthems by speaking on all the broken down cars they’ve had. It’s a commendable effort but Boots Riley did such a better job 8 years ago with “Cars & Shoes” off of The Coup’s “Steal This Album.” Matter fact he dropped another dope track involving a car on the same album with “Me and Jesus the Pimp in a ’79 Granada Last Night.” I know this isn’t the most appropriate place, but go cop that album ASAP or the 2-Disk reissue appropriately titled “Steal This Double Album” if you haven’t already.

Back to 10 Crown, despite their best efforts they fall short on all counts. The production is utterly unacceptable. It’s not bad in the sense it’s simple or badly mastered, but it lacks absolutely any soul whatsoever. Relying almost exclusively on synthesizers for every sound on the album, the crew lacks any organic feel or depth to their beats. Generic gangsta rap over tight beats is tolerable, even worthy of becoming a hit, but generic gangsta rap over shallow music is almost unbearable. Better beats would actually give this album a big boost as the 7 rappers all have somewhat distinctive voices and decent flows. But even with Premo handling the beats, it wouldn’t mask the fact that 10 Crown don’t have anything to say that hasn’t been said before. And aside from name dropping their hometown, there’s nothing much on the album that gives it a distinctive Louisville feel. For a local independent release it could have been much worse, but as it stands 10 Crown still has a long way to go if they want to get airplay outside of Louisville.

10 Crown :: The Tenth District