Usually mixtapes billed as “Album Before the Album” don’t warrant coverage since fans are only interested in the album that should follow. But when a year passes and Lil’ Keke’s “Loved by Few, Hated By Many” looks to be nowhere in sight, you realize that the “Album Before The Album” just turned into the album. I have no clue why Swishahouse decided to let all the momentum from Lil’ Keke’s “Chunk Up Da Deuce” go to waste, but apparently a weak compilation and albums from Coota Bang and Archie Lee take precedence over the H-Town legend. Left with this triple disc package as the only Lil’ Keke album in a while isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The first disc is a mixtape 29 tracks deep while the second disc is given the chopped and screwed treatment by Michael Watts. Disc 3 is a DVD which features the video for “Chunk Up Da Deuce” and nothing else. We can complain about the lack of albums all we want, but at the very least Swishahouse goes all out for their mixtapes.

Consisting mostly of freestyles over other people’s beats, this mixtape isn’t the best we’ve heard from Lil’ Keke, but it does provide some jams. Highlights include Keke spitting over Rick Ross’ “Hustlin'”:

“I’m a Texas boy, H-Town’s favorite son
Escalade, E-S-V nigga, Young Don
These hoes know one thing, I keep they panties dropping
She’s not a dime – I keep flying, nigga I ain’t stopping”

And reinterpreting T.I.’s “I’m Straight”:

“Give me a 4 and 3.5, a half a cake
A hoop with some tint and some music, and I’m straight
Give me a beat and a mic, Some ink and a couple sheets
A booth to lay the vocals and I’ll drop you some heat, cause I’m straight”

Other freestyles included here aren’t bad, though at other times Keke sounds a bit awkward spitting over beats outside of his comfort zone. His version of “Snap Your Fingers” suffers from a lack of energy and a too slow half-time flow.

When Keke stops jacking beats and laying down single verses, the music gets much better as can be seen on the two full length songs on the mixtape. “Knocking Doors Down” finds Keke collaborating with Big Pokey over a pounding beat from former No Limit producer Mike Diesel with good results. Unfortunately, outside of including Lil’ Keke’s first hit, “Southside,” “Knocking Doors Down” is the only full length song to be found on here. Keke drops some lengthy verses over Juvenile’s “Rodeo” and DJ DMD’s “25 Lighters,” but those tracks are still nothing more than four minute freestyles. “Chunk Up Tha Deuce” isn’t even included on here outside of the DVD.

As a precursor to a forthcoming album, this mixtape is actually a pretty good collection of Lil’ Keke verses. As the only Lil’ Keke CD to come out in over a year, this is a disappointing and disjointed effort. Limited to nothing but short freestyles with no direction, Lil’ Keke finds it hard to venture past rhymes about flossing and balling. “Knocking Doors Down” and “Chunk Up Da Deuce” show what Lil’ Keke is capable of doing when given the opportunity. The included chopped and screwed version makes the recycled beats and average verses a bit better, but still doesn’t make this a proper replacement for the album. The DVD is a welcome bonus since we won’t likely see the video for “Chunk Up Da Deuce” on any video outlet since the single has already run it’s course. Since this wasn’t meant as a replacement for Lil’ Keke’s album it can’t be judged as such. As a mixtape it’s better than what you usually get and packs plenty of bang for the buck. One is still left wondering why the album never materialized and why Lil’ Keke remains restricted to underground mixtapes when Swishahouse has a major label deal.

Lil' Keke :: Album Before the Album
6.5Overall Score