I read an interesting thing in Hum V’s bio as I was preparing this review. In high school, Hum V and his friends piled into a car and drove 45 minutes to Cleveland, Ohio so they could see first hand the infamous E. 1999 street made famous by Bone Thugs N Harmony. The trip served as a testament to both Hum V’s love for hip-hop and BTNH’s influence at the time. BTNH might have been the most influential rap group in the 1990s and the reason for it was their ability to make their personal experiences so universal. Despite being called a “welfare carol” by Chris Rock, “1st of tha Month” managed to transcend the concept of cashing in a check and throwing a party and became an anthem for people far and wide. Whether you took it as a motivational anthem for the new pay period or as a general ode to new beginnings, you didn’t have to be on Cleveland’s E. 1999 to appreciate the spirit of the song. That’s the beauty of rap music. You can be as personal as you want and that honesty will be appreciated and respected. I’ll go as far as saying the best rap music is that which is the most honest and sincere.
While Hum V will be the first to admit he has very little in common with BTNH when it comes to upbringing, there is still plenty the man can learn from the harmonious thugs. The best music is that which requires no introduction or background research. “1st of tha Month” told you all you needed to know about BTNH. Though Hum V may have idolized them in his adolescence, his music doesn’t reflect the personal element found in BTNH best music. We can’t count on a posse cut detailing how Hum V and his crew gets down. We shouldn’t expect a track where Hum V tells us what the H-U-M-V stands for or what he’s all about. Definitely don’t look for a track named after Hum V’s hometown letting us know how peeps in the Ashland, OH roll. Instead, we get some glimpses of Hum V’s bio here and there. “On The Road” deals with three different stories about three different individuals. I assume each one reflects a part of Hum V. Jim is a lost soul who finds his place when he least expects it. Jason is a man with rock star dreams who loses sight of his family. Jen is a girl with a bad childhood who finds her place away from her family. All three stories touch on some important lessons in life, but give little insight on where Hum V’s head is at. “Look Into My Eyes” attempts to dig a little deeper into Hum V’s life as he attempts to thank his family and friends. Problem is he spends more time talking about what he is doing (thanking people) than why he is doing it. In the end, you get the sentiment of the song, but little else. Hum V tries so hard to make that universal, emotional music that he ventures into the realm of generic vagueness too often. Take “Little Things:”
“Man I look at my life at twenty seven, it’s amazing how it’s moving
It’s crazy how I’m doing what I’m chasing and pursuing
I’m still making music but my dream is getting faded
With or without the deal I still feel like I made it
I traveled the country, sold thousands of CDs
To sell out crowds yelling out to see me
The doubters and the haters read about me in the papers
And looking at it now I don’t know how I’d ever change it
I gave it my all, one hundred percent
For BC and Die Young and everyone of my friends
I don’t want it just for me, man I want it for them
This is real life people, I ain’t one to pretend
So I got a real job, I got bills to pay
Keep the music in my head to help me fill my day
And every now and then I think about all the shit that we seen
How far we’ve come, I can’t believe I’m living my dream”
I’m not trying to hate for the sake of hating, but you really don’t come away with much from this verse. The third verse touches a little on specifics, but we still get generalizations about the girl he loves and his family. Even on “Same Ol’ Shit” he fails to give any meaningful insight on his life, instead just spitting out vague references to the things that have remained the same in his life since his childhood. You can pick any song and you’ll get the same vague ideas thrown at you. “Windows Down” alludes to Hum V riding around, bumping music, getting high, and looking out the window but he never lets us know what he sees outside that window. Even when I eagerly get to “Definitely Me” I am faced with disappointment as Hum V just uses the track to rap about how he raps.
“One Verse @ A Time” is a let down on many levels. Having to listen to an average album isn’t fun, but when the emcee on that album shows promise the disappointment is compounded. Hum V can rap. He can tell a story. His production has a catchy pop-rock element. Despite so many things going for him, his music fails because it lacks the personal element present in great music. I have to go back to BTNH and Hum V’s trip to Cleveland so many years ago. The group of friends was influenced and enchanted by this mythical street that was the host to so many interesting stories. That street had meaning to them because it was tied to stories they loved. Those stories were in turn tied to their own memories of similar experiences. While Hum V tries his hardest to recreate that personal connection, his general raps about staying positive in the midst of struggle lack that distinguishing factor. You come away with no idea of what little things influenced Hum V’s life, what streets or hot spots he frequented growing up, or what images passed through his eyes that made him so introspective. One day a group of kids will find Hum V’s music dope and bump it religiously, then they might get the motivation to pile into a car and drive down to Ashland, Ohio. They’ll get to Ashland eager to experience what their idol experienced, but they won’t be able to. That’s where this album fails. It tells the story of a man named Hum V, instead of the story of the man named Hum V.