Cadillac Don and J-Money’s release “Look at Me” is one of those albums that you get a feel for within the first few songs you hear. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either. Take, for example, Jay-Z’s masterpiece “Reasonable Doubt.” My amazement began with “Can’t Knock The Hustle,” which was followed by my initial intrigue from “Politics As Usual, then capped off by my jaw hitting the floor after “Brooklyn’s Finest.” Just from hearing those three songs, I realized why Jay was considered one of the greats. A barrage of adjectives comes to my mind when I think of that triumvirate: classic, refined, mature, unique, aggressive, daring.
“Look at Me,” on the other hand, has three songs of its own that define its overall message. Unfortunately, that message is nothing more than the same I’m-cooler-than-thou rhetoric that’s being recycled throughout hip-hop today. There is nothing original whatsoever about its subject matter, and honestly, I don’t think the group cares. This release isn’t intended for those with an actual taste for music. Creativity, lyrically or sonically, isn’t a virtue for the Texas-bred duo. I can’t front when I say, however, that “Look at Me” is an able and willing form of ammunition for car audio systems across America. Honestly, that factor might be the only positive feedback any self-respecting hip-hop head might have for this piece of, for lack of a better term, work.
Leading off “Look at Me” is the title track of the same name, which features the prerequisite appearance from Bun B on any sort release coming from the Houston area. His guest spot actually works against them, because by placing him at the end of the record he basically steals the spotlight from the main attraction. His mic presence is so much more imposing than Cadillac Don and J-Money combined. Other lyrical deficiencies include Cadillac Don stooping so low as to borrow Paul Wall’s rehashed rhyme scheme for the tail end of his verse. Now I’ve heard of people biting AZ’s or Big’s rhyme patterns, but I never would’ve thought someone could even consider biting Mr. More Carats Than A Salad.
To give these guys credit, it can be said that “Look at Me” boasts a solid instrumental, one worthy of subwoofers and amplifiers. The next track, “Dat Ain’t Nothin,” features just as much bass, but lacks any other sort of listenable quality. The cheesy synths combined with the repetitive hook are excruciating to listen to. The immaturity of these dudes becomes obvious when J-Money finds the nerve to brag about being “the number one tipper” at strip clubs. Cadillac Don finds nothing different to rap about either, as he continues to glorify the women he pursues and the Patron that he drinks.
The third song on the LP is “Peanut Butter & Jelly,” which was the album’s smash lead single, and for good reason. Besides the menacing piano riff, the certified banger owns one of the year’s most memorable choruses, which proclaims that their cars are ” inside peanut butter, outside jelly.” While the subject matter remains the same, J-Money’s flow manages to improve on this joint. Cadillac Don speeds up his own flow as well, but not before he spits woeful lines like “Might as well call me Lee Dungarees/ I can’t be busted.”
These three songs pretty much cover what the rest of the album is about. “Look at Me” features the same songs about women, haters, and jewelry, and the finished product is a boring trip with the occasional hot beat to shake things up. The group even manages to fit in the standard humanistic/ introspective track, except their version is called “Got To Believe.” The tandem does conjure up enough juice to drop a few poignant lines and be real. J-Money pauses to think of himself growing up poor and that he’s only a year removed from buying his first pair of white Nikes.
“Look at Me” follows the basic outline of many southern, mainstream hip-hop albums. Girls, cars, weed and liquor all play prominent roles in their tales and are backed up by a solid assemblage of beats. Unfortunately, this is the type of album that gives Southern hip-hop a bad name, and puts all the more pressure on the South’s actual artists to disprove critics. So was I wrong for basing a majority of this review on the album’s first three songs? Perhaps, but one listen to the rest of this LP and should prove my point: “Look at Me” was just too painful to the ears.