After months of waxing lyrical over the M.O.P. discography, it’s worth reminding our readers that the Brownsville duo is still a thing. They haven’t split, or stopped working – far from it. Lil’ Fame released the excellent Sean Price collaboration “The Price of Fame” a year ago and has popped up on a ton of projects in 2020. He continues to work on the solo album “The Walk of Fame”. Billy Danze, on the other hand, has released “The Six Pack” and “Bakers Dozen” in 2019 as preparation for “The Billy Danze Project”, his official solo LP. In the meantime, Billy has recently released “We Busy”, not just to remind you that he remains productive, but it’s a selection of tracks with Swiss producer TooBusy that became its own thing.
The last decade has been littered with New York rappers that rose to prominence in the 1990s, uniting with Europeans for solid, modern updates on their brand of Hip-Hop. Very rarely do they manage to match their heyday, but M.O.P.’s “Sparta” with Germany’s Snowgoons delivered on its promise. “We Busy” isn’t as enjoyable as that 2011 M.O.P. album is, but it’s still a successful venture, particularly for what is effectively a pre-album. Its biggest achievement is its bravery to step outside the box a little – this isn’t just another barrage of violent abuse, but sees Billy dialled down and dare I say it, composed. Usually, when I get an email about a record, the promotional material is full of ridiculous statements designed to hype up the music and encourage the writer to cover the material. A lot of hyperbole and marketing patois. But this one came through with just a tracklisting and a quote:
“We Busy” is more of the thinking section that leads to my album. The soulful beats helped me showcase the Billy Danze my audience may not know; I’m painting familiar portraits on an unfamilair canvas.Billy Danze
And he’s right. Frequently found bouncing off partner-in-rhyme Lil’ Fame, delivering rabid, intense performances that utilise his powerful vocal presence, this feels somewhat refreshing. The video for lead single “Don’t Believe Ya” reflects this too, with a blue sky and small-town setting it emphasises not only is Billy Danze a grown man in a good place (he’s looking slim too) but an artist not afraid to come out of his comfort zone. It’s only a few bars before we get the “First Family!” line though, so this remains very much within the M.O.P. universe.
Even the guest features are of the calm, calculated type: Havoc pops by for the assist on “One To Grow On”, a record more in line with the current crop of cocaine rap, with its barely audible snare. Cormega kicks off “Worship the Ground” with a boastful reminder of his accomplishments that is a little rusty, flow-wise, but that instrumental from TooBusy is lush and really suits Billy Danze. It’s got a bit of the Apollo Brown about it, with that thump and chopped up soul sample. There are moments where TooBusy really shines, namely the title track with its electric guitar, the Method Man track “Gotham” and the best of the bunch, a reunion with Lil’ Fame: “That Time”. The classic swing you get with a M.O.P. song that has you not just nodding your head, but thrusting your chest in and out too, just makes me want a full project of this.
It’s worth highlighting the Method Man verse on “Gotham” as it’s every bit as good as his song-stealing performance on Conway’s “Lemons”. There’s genuinely no emcee that is as effortlessly enjoyable to listen to as Mef in full flow:
These rappers illin’Method Man
Get shots no penicilliin
My stocks still in the millions
And cops still kill civilians
(My) Truth revealin’ some scars that’s not for healin’
Burn it all my decision
Don’t need amoxicillin either
Come get your ether, pick the stick or the sword
That’s half a version cheaper than most of you chicks can afford
Get me a hammer bigger than Thor’s
Bigger than yours
Four-four big as Biggie’s I’m finna Kick+In+The+Door
As great as these moments are, they are but moments. Billy Danze sounds great over TooBusy production when it has enough energy to match his commanding presence. Even though he’s dialled it down, Billy is blessed with Chuck D levels of boom in his delivery. “Southern Man” has a solid beat but Billy darts between serious storytelling and cartoonish violence, which when coupled with a dominant vocal snippet, can feel messy. “Damn” is a vehicle for his son that doesn’t really fit with Billy’s style and is the weakest of the collaborations but perhaps the most disappointing track is the one with Daz Dillinger. The beat is forgettable, not really highlighting the pedigree a name like Daz deserves – this could have been the record’s anthem, and TooBusy is certainly capable of lacing the two with something to satisfy Dogg Pound and Mash Out Posse fans alike. We know Billy sounds great over West Coast-style pianos.
DJ Premier is listed as a feature but realistically, he just drops a few lines on “Take a Step” – it’s a shame there are no scratches. But as a big fan of Billy Danze, I admire the fact he’s put out an album with one producer and for most of “We Busy” the Brownsville veteran comes through with solid performances. While it lacks the usual rampant curb-stomping version of Billy we know and love, it has enough of that here for long-time fans of M.O.P.. It isn’t quite the different Billy Danze that the start of this review hinted at, but with a couple of strong guest features, some impressive production from TooBusy and Billy toning down his style somewhat, there is enough here to recommend to fans of mean New York rap.