Hip-hop is no stranger to the concept of a supergroup. Slaughterhouse, The HRSMN, and The Firm are what spring to mind – either an assembly of solo stars or the combination of crews for the sheer hell of it. They feel like they are designed for fans who want to indulge in fantasy combinations of artists. The first rule of a supergroup is that it needs to be a group, which is more than two people. Kanye West and Jay-Z’s “Watch the Throne” was not a supergroup project, nor was Run the Jewels or PRhyme. So the idea of The Lobby Boyz is a hard sell out the gate, given it’s billed as a supergroup that includes Jim Jones and Maino. I’d argue the super part of supergroup is also questionable, given neither Jim Jones nor Maino are emcees you’d consider either stars or elite lyricists. But then, the supergroup Lobby Boyz sounds better than the serviceable duo Lobby Boyz. 

Jim Jones, of Dipset fame, has jumped around group settings throughout his career. I’m one of the few that flew the flag for Purple City Byrd Gang back in the Babygrande days (this track still slaps) and the whole Dipset movement was something I bought into. Granted, it was 90% down to the bombastic production that would outshine any emcee that tried to rap to it, but the group’s outlandish sense of fashion coupled with brash lyrics you could rap along to (and a goofy infatuation with the Taliban) meant it was difficult to dislike their schtick, no matter how short-lived it inevitably was. Hell Rell’s “This Is What I Do” remains one of my favorite hip-hop beats, and I’ll take any excuse to listen to it.

Heatmakerz’s run in the early 2000s is rarely talked about, and while their recent output with Joell Ortiz has been solid, it’s hard to envisage them reaching that level again. Heatmakerz aren’t present on this project, but I had to double-check just in case because the beats are stronger than I anticipated. It shouldn’t come as a surprise given Jim Jones is known for riding out to dope production, but given the flawed concept of The Lobby Boyz, it’s worth listening to just for the beats.

I say the concept of The Lobby Boyz is flawed, but there is a guest feature on twelve of the fifteen songs, so the revolving door that’s in a lobby is actually the concept at play here. The output varies in quality though – that horrid autotune trend New York was on a decade-plus ago is still present here, which is where certain tracks can be reported to reception for noise pollution. “Lobby Boyz Anthem” isn’t fit to shine “Dipset Anthem”‘s shoes with that hook screeching away, and if you’re averse to the whole autotune style, then this project will be a hard sell. It returns courtesy of Holy on “Off the Leash”, and it is the one part of the track that can get in the sea. As can “Babysitter” with a hook straight out of a garbled text-to-speech tool. This is where this project ultimately falls short – there are too many of these second-rate reaches to the nightclub when for me, the strength of Jim Jones and Maino is in charismatic raps over speaker-splitting production. Chris Brown sent in his doppelganger for “King of the City” and “One Day” and both are as unremarkable as that premise sounds.

Fortunately, there are some tracks that the Lobby Boyz succeed with. You could pour viagra into a cement mixer and it’s unlikely to go as hard as “No Love” does. I’d love to hear M.O.P. over this beat, but Maino will suffice. He has just the right voice to honor the instrumental and it’s actually Jim Jones who frantically scrambles to keep up. Not a week goes by I’m not mentioning a Benny the Butcher feature; he’s working harder than Lil’ Wayne did in the late 2000s. “Praying” is fairly ordinary, reflecting on the age-old topic of being thankful for no longer being a drug dealer, Fabolous sounds clean on “No Bobby V” – which itself sounds like the hit song “Slow Down” by Bobby Valentino – but just hearing Maino admit he’s too old for strippers gives this track a welcome edge. Sure, the three boast of not being smooth or charming, playing out bad-boy material but Maino and Jim Jones inject enough of a light touch into their character so not as to come across as obnoxious. Styles P guests on “Die Young” for a look at life expectancy, something the self-professed health advocate has embodied in recent years. But again, the hook is horrible. It’s that autotuned, warbling male vocal that rarely sounds soulful – what happened to an actual talented singer doing the hook? “Never Take Me Alive” is another one to suffer, itself including an interpolation of 2-Pac’s “Pain”.

The past is a frequent theme, not just lyrically but musically too. Da Luniz’s “I Got 5 On It” is revisited on “Climb Back”, “Off the Leash” is Jay-Z’s “Do It Again” and “Slide” is a trap-infused revision of Ruff Ryders’ “Down Bottom”. I think these are more effective than the recent attempts by The Game on “DRILLmatic” to bring back these late 90s party anthems because they never openly acknowledge or celebrate those original songs. But it also says a lot about two artists raised on New York hip-hop – half the album flips classics while the other seems stuck in the era of T-Pain. Lobby Boyz may be a new idea but the execution is far from new and you’re left with mixtape-level material marketed as more than the sum of its parts.

The Lobby Boyz :: The Lobby Boyz
6Overall Score