Greg NICE!!! Greg N-I-C-E!!! Sometimes he rhymes slow, and sometimes he rhymes quick, but he always rocks for a fee and not for free. (Maybe he’ll do it for charity.) If you’re a long time hip-hop head who goes back to the late 1980’s, you remember a time when songs like “Funky For You” or “More and More Hits” were ubiquitous. So predominant was the prevalence of songs by Nice & Smooth on the radio that group member Greg Nice became one of the most sampled rappers in all of hip-hop. It got to the point many people today know him better as the man who said “stick up kids is out to tax” on a GangStarr track – though he and Smooth B later did the seminal hip-hop classic “DWYCK” with Guru. The point is that Greg Nice had a distinctive, high pitched, energetic voice and delivery. That voice was well paired with the loquacious and aptly named Smooth B, a man so mellow and laid back he’d probably say “please refrain, that’s not polite” if you punched him right in the face.

Sadly as with so many good things in hip-hop, the partnership between Nice and Smooth was not to last, and the commercial failure of their fourth album “Blazing Hot” was the final nail in the proverbial coffin. Greg Nice has found work using his distinctive voice to provide hooks for other artists, while Smooth B has comfortably faded from the limelight, only occasionally dropping a single or adding a verse to a posse song here and there. In fact if I can be perfectly blunt about it (and what is a critic if not willing to say what’s harsh when needed) Greg Nice seems to crave the fame he used to have as half of Nice & Smooth and be constantly in search for ways to get back to the spotlight. He’s not willing to simply fade out, and thanks to that distinctively high pitched voice he doesn’t really have to disappear. Put him on any track and it’s hard not to notice him even from a mile away. He’s naturally loud and boisterous.

The problem on “The Popcycle” is the same one that Greg Nice has had for his entire career though – he’s a very unsophisticated lyricist. One might even generously say he’s outright SHIT as a rapper, and that calling his rhymes nursery school would be an insult to toddlers everywhere. His rap style doesn’t lend itself to verbal dexterity in any case. When your verbal trademark is that every line RHYMES, all of the TIME, you drink soda pop with a twist of LIME, and call a honeydip who looks like a DIME. It’s not hard to do a Greg Nice impression – just be the exact opposite of Ras Kass and yell a whole hell of a lot. With Smooth B to offset his often retarded delivery, his simplistic raps had a whimsical charm to them, and were often memorable despite how patently absurd they were on close examination. Now Nice has no partner to pick up the slack for him and hide his weaknesses, and since “Popcycle” puts emphasis on the POP syllable it only gets worse here. Nice is trying to make dance/club music in the Lady Gaga vein, only it ends up being more of the Kim Zolciak variety. Take “Show Me That Thang”:

“You wear that thong like a Vicly model
Work it, shake it, vivaratto
Pour champagne out the champagne bottle
DJ mix it, all Serato
Let it all hang that’s the motto
There’s more champagne in the bottle
Rico Suave, but not Geraldo
Pump this shit out in Colorado”

This is bad. Bad meaning BAD bad. The annoying techno-esque beat only makes matters worse. It only gets worse though as Young B is a poor substitute for Smooth B on “Put Your Drinks in the Air,” which also features a rapper so bad he can actually make Greg Nice so sophisticated – Webstar. When the song’s writers start ripping off Toni Basil’s “Mickey” the album has officially jumped the shark, and the sad fact is that “Put Your Drinks in the Air” is only song number four.

There are almost 44 minutes in total to “The Popcycle” but even the most ardent of Nice & Smooth fans aren’t going to want to listen to most of them. Finding the tolerable songs is to put it nicely a chore. “Nice For Me” is what Greg Nice would have been if AutoTune and Justin Bieber existed in 1990, complete with the throwback beat and EPMD references (“girlies on my jock, for the way I hold a piece of steel”). Tony Yayo has never been thought of as the greatest member of G-Unit, but he’s definitely a step up for this entire album on “Can’t Stand Us.” And the only man in hip-hop who might be naturally louder than Greg Nice drops in on “Ayo Ayo” – the one and only Flavor Flav. Unfortunately it takes 40 seconds of the instrumental before we hear from EITHER of them, by which point most people will have lost interest, and even by this album’s simplistic standards Greg Nice’s rap is ridiculously bad. Declaring yourself “funky dope like a drug dealer” would make more sense without the “funky” in it, but Greg always has to make it “Funky For You” even when it’s a REALLY bad idea to do so. This is a 2010 release to avoid. I need a whole bottle of aspirin to cure the headache this one caused.

Greg Nice :: The Popcycle