As hip-hop compilations go, Billy Danze of M.O.P. fame is certainly attempting one of the more ambitious efforts in recent memory. “Raps United Nations” is nearly two hours of music in total at this early point in its development, though it’s fair to say given this is a promotional copy that it may wind up being pared down before release, or even split in half with another group of tracks being the “2nd Wave.”
It’s not the size alone that makes this project a big deal though. The one-sheet accompanying “Raps United Nations” notes that unsigned artists trying to get noticed by accident promoting themselves online is literally the equivalent of catching lightning in a bottle. His solution to this problem? Form what he describes as “an army of incredible artists from all corners of the globe to unify and raise awareness for them by creating projects which are loud enough to be heard by the masses.” It’s the old “strength in numbers” theory being put into practice for a new era of music distribution.
After listening to this album, it occurs to me this idea may have been TOO ambitious. In the old days when you could bring a collective of like-minded artists together, cliques like Death Row and the Juice Crew had more than just their skills and a common producer or record label between them. Most of them also had geography, being the best their region had to offer, creating a cream of the crop for one locale which also had a distinctively unique sound endemic to that area. Maybe Billy Danze could keep that in tact even with a global reach, using his role as the executive producer, but hip-hop heads might be going “wait a minute” seeing names like Kid Called Quest, Sav Killz, XL, Serius Jones and Rapper Big Pooh. That’s fine though because they’re superior to some of the names riding with them.
All Nanno shows me on “Money, Cars, Clothes” is that he’s a typical braggart obsessed with conspicuous consumption. The Co-Op are at least trying to make “Rap Money” before they spend it, but the end goal of “smashing the walls of the tax brackets” doesn’t strike me as a very United Nations goal. If the goal is to be global, the themes should be relatable to any audience, and it’s not realistic to people who don’t even have running water to talk about stacking funds or buying big cars. That speaks to me as to why all of the flags found on the cover art aren’t represented, and vice versa. There is a little bit of French courtesy of Keno MC on the smartly produced track “Sacre’,” but he’s the exception as opposed to the rule.
There are certainly good songs on “Raps United Nations” you can enjoy, but again with apologies to the fact this may not be the final release, one didn’t need to weed through 30+ songs to get there. On an EP highlighting the best of this release and debuting the concept, I would have kept Keno MC’s track along with XL’s “Better Go Get Your Gun” featuring Torae. Other worthwhile cuts – KCQ’s “Silicone (Your Life’s a Lie),” Rel the Chosen’s “So Wonderful,” the raspy voiced Dro Pesci on “Real in the Field” (despite the somewhat disturbing punchline “I hold it down like a rape victim”) and “Grown Man B.I.” by Demorne Warren. This compilation in its present form is both bloated and unnecessary. Trim the fat for a start, then either get serious about the “international” concept, or drop it altogether and admit it’s just another album with a few stars, some potential, and a lot of also-rans.