I curse in my head a lot when I’m alone, but rarely outloud. But while listening to Turbulence’s “Secret Society” several times in my car coming to and from work, I couldn’t help but say “just shut the fuck up” over and over again.
“Bitch, get money!” – shut the fuck up.
“I’m the one who showed the ballers how to ball.” – shut the fuck up.
“Spray uzis/leave ’em wet like jacuzzis” – shut the fuck up.
“All you freaky, kinky girls, come on in my freaky world.” – shut the fuck up.
“Husltin’ and grindin’!” – shut the fuck up.
“Get your weight up . . . holler back/when you got some stacks.” – please shut the fuck up.
Seriously. No more of this bullshit. It’s terrible. Not every song is terrible. The looping of a reverb-laden clip from “Puff the Magic Dragon” on “Puff” is wellp-placed. “All I See” is a detailed and nuanced observation of urban blight, on which Sinsere comments that all he sees are “abandoned buildings and open fields,” a particularly poignant glimmer of imagery. Several tracks, at least at points, appropriately toe the line between celebration and critique of the criminal lifestyle (“See where I’m from niggas grind from sun-up to sun-up/don’t sleep/thinking that they might miss a come up . . . Education fading so they turn to the pyrex,” from Pistol Atkins’ “Where I’m From.”)
But, for goodness sakes, a lot of this album is terrible. And it’s not just that it’s terrible. It’s that it appeals to the worst parts of its listeners – the parts that will believe that these rappers are “keeping it real” because they are black people rapping about drug dealing, murder, and hustling.
I hate to say it because we’re all a little bit racist, but I’m just not racist enough to for this record. There are 20 rappers featured on “Secret Society,” and I just don’t believe that they are drug dealing, gun-toting hustlers. If it was easy for me to believe that most black people like to kill people and sling crack, then I would probably believe that Turbulence is “keeping it real,” but, I’m sorry, I don’t buy it.
Realize, this is not me speculating about the backgrounds of any of these MCs. I don’t know them or where they come from. But, as a collective of artists conveying a persona, Turbulence is hard to take seriously. Inversely, I have no idea if Jay-Z ever dealt drugs; same for Pusha T and Malice of Clipse. But when these rappers spit about “the game,” I don’t question it, not because of the color of their skin, but because of the literary precision with which they convey the characters they embody on their albums. It’s the same reason Jay-Z likes “Scarface.” It’s the same reason I’m intrigued by Eminem-as-sociopath and Mr. Lif-as-video-game-playing-black-power-stoner-prophet. I don’t know any of these people personally, but, their rap identities are independently compelling. Turbulence, on the other hand, makes no effort at character development and just hopes their audience buys into stereotypes strongly enough to believe their hype.
The same could arguably be said of Dre and Snoop on “The Chronic.” I’m going to leave that debate for another day, but what I will say is that Dre and Snoop have two things going for them that Turbulence doesn’t: 1. Dre is a really good producer; 2. Snoop is a really good rapper. Even if their lyrical content is sometimes backwards, their styles set them apart as innovators. In contrast, the production on “Secret Society,” is the same old SYNTH! SYNTH! SYNTH! hooks over a rapid fire drum machine high-hat. The rapping is just a dumber version of past gangster-rap stylings, which others could sometimes pull off but this entourage does not.
This album is making me angry.
But perhaps I’ve said too much. Maybe this review is itself racist. Maybe it’s just a projection of my own stereotypes onto a few individuals. And if readers make this complaint then I respect that. The ones who cannot accuse me of stereotyping, however, are the members of Turbulence. They were banking on it.