Slim Shady and Dilla. What else is there to know about Detroit hip hop? Dig deeper and you might just turn up a gem or two. Giving anyone not knowing where to start a good entry point is DJ Butter with “Welcome to Shitsville,” another in a series of mixtape-flavored releases showcasing an array of local talent over his exclusive beats. Serious rap fans will recognize a handful of names here, but no one outside of Michigan is likely to be familiar with all of these rappers. So the beauty of “Shitsville” isn’t necessarily Butter’s beats (which are always serviceable and occasionally excellent), but the chance to discover something truly new and enjoyable.
Throwing 26 tracks on the disc, Butter laces us with an array of heavy beats, featuring mostly understated melodies and sometimes boring boom bap (oxymoron?) drums. Any of them could find a place in the newest Obie Trice or D12 LP, although it’s more likely these would be the type of tracks that were ultimately discarded before mastering. Aside from a handful of true bangers, in other words, Butter’s beats are very solid but ultimately unremarkable. It doesn’t help matters that the mastering seems messed up on some songs, leaving the sound flat-sounding, almost mono.
Lyrically the influence of Motown’s better known sons Obie, Royce da 5’9″ and D12 is (both literally and figuratively) all over this disc; while the above mentioned trio appears on six tracks, the lesser knowns follow their lead, spitting bars both hard and clever, disgusting and fantastical, or some combination of the two. All but a few have enough charisma and wit to keep your ear on lock, and the numerous posse cuts help in creating a free-for-all atmosphere, conjuring images of Butter cueing up the beat and just letting a bunch of hungry cats spray all over it, fading out more due to time constraints than to song structure or lack of material.
Warning to all the Eminem completists (if there are even any of you left out there): technically, he’s credited with “Commercial Break,” but the track is a mere 15 seconds and consists of the semi-retired legend basically mumbling something about “Shitsville.” So it’s probably not worth your dollars to add it to your collection, although the glimpse into the Detroit scene might be enough to justify a purchase after all. The liner notes consist of ads for two more DJ Butter projects that look almost identical to “Shitsville,” and the mass-produced flavored make-up is evident in the lack of thematic structure. Yet if this is the epitome of disposable arts, it’s not the worst thing in the world. Hold ya head Masta Ace.