Back when national releases starring southern artists were somewhat of a rarity, “Jacktown (601)” by Jackson’s Wildliffe Society was one of the few southern albums you could read about in a national publication such as The Source. The respective review from October 1995 acknowledged: ‘The days of hip-hop residing only on the East and West Coasts are a thing of the past. There are an abundance of rap acts who are now representing the South.’ Summing up the appraising write-up and the moderate rating (2 1/2 mics), the writer concluded: ‘Many have a tendency to downtalk most MC’s from the South and place stereotypes of wackness upon them. While certain tracks show their ability, Wildliffe Society doesn’t exactly crush those stereotypes with this effort. This album just doesn’t have the total package to get into the mix with the artists out now.’

In 2007, southern MC’s are still (or again) being stereotyped. The ‘stereotypical ass shakin’ deep bass sound that is prevalent in that region’ (which despite everything was absent from “Jacktown (601)”) that the Source review made out has slowed down considerably, but ass shakin’ and deep bass still play a key role in the success story that is southern rap. In fact, the album’s distributor at the time, TVT, has had a heavy hand in the proliferation of the southern sound in recent years with Lil Jon, the Ying Yang Twins and Pitbull. As for Wildliffe Society, they weren’t heard from since their apperance on the _Phat Beach_ soundtrack in 1996.

A decade later the unsuspecting reviewer hears the story from one of the involved, as sketched in the press kit enclosed in the shipment of this mix-CD. Having released a local single entitled “Swing the Bass” under the alias Rated X in the mid-’90s, the artist currently known as Rainman was at some point offered membership in Wildliffe Society. After the crew disbanded in 1998, Rainman pursued a solo career as Xtiano. Now he prepares to drop his debut “Bigga Than Life,” which will be featuring production by David Banner, DJ Speedy and the Co-Stars and guest vocals by Banner, Lil Flip and Slick Pulla (of Jeezy’s USDA crew). Rainman hooks up with local DJ Finesse to promote the forthcoming release with a 30-minute mix.

Unlike many other promotional mixes, “Bigga Than Life – The Mixtape” contains no explicit previews or high-profile guest stars. It is a collection of brief tracks that show Rainman parading as a truly stereotypical southern rapper who’s “ridin’ 24s” and “got all kind of hoes”. Let’s have a look at the inventory. Does he sell drugs? Does he have a nice car? Does he cash in on the world’s oldest profession? Does he have his financial priorities straight? Does he try his best to start a new dance craze? “Got That White,” “Riding Clean,” “Ho Up,” “Money Got 2 Have It” and “Pop That Monkey” answer the above questions affirmatively.

All the ingredients for southern success are there, but they are presented in such an uninteresting manner that this mix actually works against the proper album. Only the most loyal local fans will swallow the unreflected, unrefined lyrics that make up these formulaic sketches of contemporary rap songs. Rainman’s lazy drawl makes Cash Money Millionaire Baby sound like an accomplished MC. In terms of lyrics with only the slightest poetical value, “Like Jet Li I’m the One / the Shady Oaks gangster with the loaded gun” is as original as it gets. And as bad as it is, “She Love Dick” is actually one of the better efforts, simply because a little bit more attention is paid to lyrical detail.

While I never had the opportunity to get a hold of “Jacktown (601),” there is no doubt in my mind that Rainman used to be a very different rapper in the mid-’90s. He calls what he does now “grown man style,” but in reality there’s nothing particularly grown about his subject matter nor attitude. Thankfully, the CD contains two bonus tracks, “Out Here” and “Go On,” which, while not radically different in content, represent a quantum leap in quality. If that’s what “Bigga Than Life” will be like, it might be a very different story – literally. Because with so many years in both the rap and the drug game, Rainman has surely got an interesting story to tell. Let’s just hope he knows a little something about the art of storytelling, too.

Rainman :: Bigga Than Life - The Mixtape