Nut-Rageous’s best-of mixtape, “Raw Nuts,” isn’t totally inspiring at first blush. The artwork is ho-hum, and then there is that name; isn’t Nut-rageous the name of a candy bar? It turns out that the Flushing rapper had the nickname Peanut as a kid, and chose Nut-rageous because it sounded better, totally unaware that there was a candy bar with the same name. In his battle raps he used the line “you can eat the bar, but you can’t eat the rapper.” So it’s an unfortunate coincidence that the Reeses bar shares his moniker, but Nut-Rageous has dealt with it and moved on.
When you put “Raw Nuts” on your stereo/MP3 player/ turntable, you will immediately be impressed by the beats. The opening track “Danger,” produced by KS 40 Below, is built around what sounds like an old Eartha Kitt song. I am a sucker for beats that sample sixties pop and soul, and “Danger” is no exception. “Play The Field” uses the same trick, except in this case producer Seando uses an old girl-group song, with similarly positive results, and “Somebody Loves Me” makes it a hat trick, with Dre sampling yet another old song. The bulk of the rest of the album is produced by Ron Mills and Cuban, who do their best DJ Premier impression. The result is solid East Coast hip hop that is definitely above-average. The East Coast angle is accentuated by the numerous samples from classic East Coast records, chopping in everything from Biggie to Nas.
As an MC, Nut-Rageous is clearly influenced by the great East Coast MCs. I heard a little Guru, Nas, Cormeaga, and Biggie in his rhymes, and he explicitly states his love of lyricism and disdain for commercial hip hop. Nut-rageous is a man intent on keeping it real, and carrying on the tradition of real hip hop that the East Coast is famous for. Unfortunately, Nut-Rageous’s rapping hits every hip hop cliche in the book. In the same way the Game name-dropped classic rappers and albums on “The Documentary,” Nut-Rageous drops classic hip hop cliche’s on his songs. Back-in-the-day reminisces? Check. Don’t-fuck-wit-me braggadaccio? Check. We-don’t-love-these-hos dissing? Check. This wouldn’t be such a terrible thing if his rhymes could make the cliches more than the sum of their parts. Unfortunately, he isn’t that inspiring as a rapper. It took me a few tracks to figure this out: I went in hoping it was good, and the beats were more than decent, so it wasn’t until a few songs in that I realized that something wasn’t adding up, and that something was Nut-rageous. The back-in-the-day track “1979”is an example of the chinks in his lyrical armor. The sentiment is there, the beat is decent, but the words and flow come off clumsily:
“Yo, I was born 1979
Around the time when hip hop started to shine
That was the year of disco, the year of the blackout
Cocaine, dope, crack hadn’t even come out
I’m glad that my mom brought me into this world
Bless my grandmother for having a beautiful girl
And my pops was always in the scenery
He took care of me
Now that’s a thug to me
We grew up in the ghetto
Times was hard
My family was large”
Nut-rageous does manage to generate some real heat on several tracks here, like “Play Da Field,” “They Wanna Know,” “Wat’s Poppin’,” with the late KL, and “Don’t Tell Me Tell Her,” with Dana Dane. The best track on “Raw Nuts” is “Rap Issue,” in which Nut-Rageous gives his commentary on the state of the rap game, including lines like:
“Now Jigga’s after Nas
He must be on drugs
You heard the response from Ether, man he ate him up
Don’t get it twisted, I like Jigga
He’s a real lyricist
But you just don’t battle a poet, that’s ridiculous”
I appreciate Nut-rageous’s love of and appreciation for hip hop, and he has definitely enlisted some very talented up-and-coming producers. Fans of East Coast and underground hip hop could do worse than checking this out, but it is hampered by some clumsy rhymes. “Raw Nuts” is also available on vinyl for all you purists out there, yet another example of how Nut-rageous is keeping it real and true to the old school.