Hip-Hop music goes through periodic cycles where a producer (or his crew) makes a rapid ascent in popularity by scoring every chart topping single for months at a time. Overexposure and cheap imitators result in many burning out and descending right back into the obscurity from whence they came. On the other hand the truly talented can turn out top notch music for the rest of their career with or without the #1 bullet on Billboard. Rocko is uniquely qualified to understand both sides of this coin. Flip one side and he’s helped mastermind hits for the likes of Hitman Sammy Sam, Young Dro and Pastor Troy; flip the other side and he’s enlisted the current flavor of the month Drumma Boy to produce a burner on his hit single “Umma Do Me.” Few songs in recent memory have caused me such consternation as a writer. Drumma Boy is quickly reaching his threshold of overexposure, but for the moment he is white hot and his beat on “Umma Do Me” is no exception. Rocko is no hot lyricist though – on “Umma Do Me” he’s closer to liquid nitrogen status and not because he’s the baddest. In fact reverse the old Run-D.M.C. cliche and apply it to to read “Not bad meaning good but BAD MEANING BAD” or just read the inane insanity of it all for yourself:

“You like the fo’ door (me) I just do two (okay)
If you ain’t gettin money, nigga I’m nothin like you
I’m from the old school, you from the new school
My old school cost more than your new school
Just got a new school, that’s what I’m used to
Suede around the panoramic equals clear view
You in my rearview – yeah you history (skrrt!)
First to second two seconds I love a six speed
I swag it out uhh, felt my swag
The shoes match the hat, the hat match my bag
These niggaz mad, you don’t like it nigga sue me
Wanna see how it’s done, then watch me do me”

Double takes as a record reviewer usually come when an artist drops a mind blowing metaphor or punchline, but Rocko got one for all the wrong reasons by rhyming “new school” with “new school.” It’s beyond my comprehension to even picture him sitting down with pen and pad and writing that rhyme without immediately crumpling up the paper and throwing it away. That’s the sensible action any skilled lyricist would take after writing a line that awful, but “Umma Do Me” contains such depths of vapid materialism that individually awful lines drown in comparison – or as Rocko says himself “You make it sprinkle, I make it tsunami.” Yes my boy, yes you do. Impossibly I like this song. Thinking about the lyrics makes me want to drink 40’s to the head until my brain goes numb, but the Drumma Boy beat is such a monster that I end up humming along to the song and singing the hook despite myself. “Umma Do Me” may be the most insidiously addictive song since Soulja Boy dropped “Crank That (Soulja Boy).” I’d much prefer to own instrumentals of these tracks and forget the lyrics altogether. To be fair to Rocko I purchased “Self-Made” out of pocket to see if he chose to “Dumb it Down” as Lupe says just to get a chart hit. The Drumma Boy produced “Busy” did little to assuage my fears that he was as lyrically suspect as they come:

“Man I busier than a muh’fucker, man I be busy on the block
Doing shows getting guap, man you know how shorty rock
Man I be busy than a muh’fucker, man I be busy doin my thang
Ain’t nothing changed but my change, you know how we do it mayne
I got insomnia (f’real?) I can’t sleep man
I’m gettin money (what can I say?) I’m a busy man (YEAH!)
Down in Florida (doin what?) Handlin bid’ness man (okay)
I’m like Snow White, you met me down in Disneyland”

Rocko did it again. Examining the song in close detail makes it repugnant, but if one completely tunes out the rap and concentrates on the beat the song has a synthesized horn melody that’s repetitive but not irritating. Two songs with this formula could be a coincidence, but for “Self-Made” this is a theme that repeats throughout from “Dis Morning” to “Karma.” He opens the album with ridiculous braggadocio like “addicted to the money for more than half my life/grew up fast, I bought a car, I never had the bike” then closes it with a phony attempt to be deep and insightful by saying “please forgive him lord, even a thug pray/I pray, my past don’t come back to haunt me.” I pray the lyrics found on songs like “Snakes” don’t come back to haunt me either:

“Tony fuck with Stan, but see Stan, he the man
That boy Stan got guap’, he a fool with the yam
But see Stan fuck with Tony, he don’t know that Tony phony
And that Tony just got jammed, last week with some money
And about ten of them bunnies, listen what they told Tony (what)
Be a free nigga, what they really want is Stan
Whole time this nigga Stan, thinkin Tony is his man
Thinking Tony work with him, but Tony workin with The Man”

Any guess you make about where “Snakes” goes from this point on would be one hundred percent accurate. Pick single syllable words that would sound alike and they all end a line: damn, fam, plan, can, and so on. Rocko doesn’t improve things with his delivery, as he puts vocal emphasis on the wrong words at the wrong times in the belief that it surplants a proper structure for speech. If you have a conversation with Rocko the way he raps you’d constantly wind up saying “And your question is WHAT exactly?” The problem is he’d never be asking you a damn thing. In the pantheon of Southern rappers to release albums in the last 24 months Rocko is among the worst, but if there’s a saving grace to “Self-Made” it’s from Drumma Boy doing a majority of the production throughout. I appreciate that Rocko got tired of helping write hits for other people and wanted a little of the spotlight himself, but now that he’s had his hit single and major label album I hope he’ll hang up the mic and go back to being a coach instead of a player.

Rocko :: Self-Made