Back in the day during the reign of Master P’s No Limit Records, there were a handful of distinctive voices. You had the country-to-the-core drawl of Master P, the almost never on beat erratic flow of Silkk the Shocker, the over the top and high-octane delivery of Mystikal and the grizzly-but-deliberate baritone of Fiend. Capital F.I. was always one of the standout artists on that label and to my knowledge, he’s the only one who has been still steadily working since the imprint faded into obscurity (and bankruptcy) in the early 2000’s, unless you count Snoop Dogg (or Curren$y to a lesser point). After No Limit, Sleepy Eyed Jones linked up with the Ruff Ryders camp. He never released an album with them, but appeared on and produced a handful of songs. Fiend did manage to release numerous albums on his own, most recently 2010’s “Audio Dope” and 2009’s “The Bailout.” This time out, Fiend is back as International Jones and it’s all about “Tennis Shoes & Tuxedos.” He has help from the likes of Big K.R.I.T., Smoke DZA, Trademark Da Skydiver, Corner Boy P and Curren$y.
After a short intro, things kick off with the title track. Backed by a sample of Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You,” Fiend welcomes us all to the affair that is “Tennis Shoes & Tuxedos.” The smooth and mellow nature of things carries over to the next track which features Big K.R.I.T., Smoke DZA and a smooth ass sample of Ahmad Jamal’s rendition of the theme from “M*A*S*H.” At the risk of being too repetitive here, I’ll say this: the majority of the tracks on this project are slow and rather soulful. “Cali-Fornia” has an old western feel to it, almost as if John Wayne or Clint Eastwood were about to come out of a saloon and pop a cap in that ass. Fiend gets a bit freaky on “Paradise,” or at least we’re initially led to believe so. He removes “the panties” before revealing that he was talking about the bag that contained the weed. “Good Ass Time” is one of the more uptempo tracks here. As advertised, the song is all about “good times and good people.” Trademark Da Skydiver and Corner Boy P make appearances on “Coupe Conversing” but Fiend kicks things off with a solid verse of his own.
Curren$y makes an appearance to close out “Luvin Life,” a song that seems like it would get the crowd fairly hype when performed on stage or damage a car trunk when bumped too loud. “James Bond Benz” is dominated by the instrumental for the majority of the track, but not before Fiend gets “fat boy fresh.” The affair closes out with “A Day At The Office,” which quickly goes through a day in the life of SL Jones. This includes rolling his weed up, checking his email and finding out the latest on Twitter (@FIEND4THAMONEY, btw). On the night “Tennis Shoes” was made available for download, Fiend had a Ustream session where he played the project from front to back and answered questions from the fans as he prepared to hit the town. At the conclusion, he even took the viewers into the car with him before he departed. There’s a reason that Fiend is one of the last few No Limit Soldiers still in the game, it’s that willingness to adapt and interact with the ones that inevitably support an artist’s career. At the end of the day, what we’re left with is a fairly decent collection of songs that should get a moderate amount of spins from true fans. The production here makes for a nice soundtrack to chill to and perhaps more importantly, a serviceable playlist of cuts to ride around and bump. While I don’t quite have the James Bond Benz, or any Benz for that matter, rest assured that we don’t need it to enjoy this project.