Every now and then I feel like a little historical context is helpful for a review. 33 years ago, Geffen Records refused to distribute Geto Boys self-titled “The Geto Boys” album, which forced Rick Rubin (the head of Def American Recordings and executive producer of the release) to contract with Warner Bros. Music to get it into stores. Keep in mind this was before the even more controversial “We Can’t Be Stopped” album, which showed Bushwick Bill on a hospital gurney right after he had attempted suicide. Record labels used to be scared to death of violent, controversial, gangster rappers from the South. 33 years later Geffen distributes SpotemGottem’s “Back From the Dead” without even blinking an eye.

I’m not broaching this subject simply on the basis of his music. SpotemGottem can claim to live it like he talks it just on his arrest record alone. Grand theft auto in 2017. Aggravated assault and aiming a laser sight at a car park attendant in 2021. (Now what kind of parking garage beef necessitated that extreme measure? Come on Spotty.) Then there’s one that’s absolutely wild to me simply because I’ve never heard of it before Mr. Gottem — fleeing from the police and reckless driving of a boat last year. Actually it was a jet ski but I assume the law doesn’t make that distinction even though I will. That’s the type of thing that could only happen in Florida. It feels like there’s not a year that goes by that SpotemGottem hasn’t found himself in more legal trouble.

In no way am I arguing that Geffen/Interscope Records should drop SpotemGottem. In fact I commend them for having more courage now than they did 33 years ago. Times have definitely changed for the better for rappers in that regard. We also don’t know all of the circumstances surrounding all of the charges Spotem has been hit with. Successful rappers often become the target of police harassment and overzealous prosecutors looking to make their name off a headline making case. There’s also plenty of reason for Spotem to carry firearms despite some charges reading “convicted felon in illegal possession,” given how many rap stars have been shot and killed in armed robberies or by their jealous haters. I’d keep a pistol tucked in my waist too.

When I saw “Back From the Dead” included a song called “Got a Little Older” it made me think the hate directed Spotem’s way was out of proportion to his reality. He’s in his 20’s now. He could be maturing beyond the guy who thought grand theft auto was real life and not a video game. “I’m off drugs right now, I’m focused baby” sounds like that’s the case, until you realize the very next line is about how “she gon’ give me the pussy, ain’t gotta beg for it.” Well maturity is a process, and Spotem is just barely old enough to legally buy beer. Baby steps. The SkrillaBag and BG production is catchy, the hook is something to sing along to, and Hurricane Wisdom is an interesting partner to collaborate with. No hate for this song from me.

Collaborations are Spotem’s strength. “On a Tee” has a cameo from the gravelly Icewear Vezzo and production by DJ Tony Tone, TAPEKID & Yakree. What isn’t Spotem’s strength is how leans into cliched tropes. “Big ass bullets take down Suburbans and they’ll flip a Jeep/no more hot cars, I got it rented for the whole week.” Mixed feelings here. I’m glad he doesn’t drive “hot cars” any more, but if he’s renting instead of owning, what does he have to show for it? On the other hand that might be better than throwing down a few hundred grand for an expensive foreign — rent it for a week and use the money you saved to put it back in your career and start your own label. That could be a power move on Spotem’s part, and I dig it.

In fact “mixed feelings” sums up my view of “Back From the Dead” in general and Spotem in particular. Songs like “No Strings Attached” featuring Tory Lanez are fun to listen to. Spotem knows who to work with, knows who to attach (no pun attended) as producers of his music and for distribution of his projects, and if he can stay out of legal trouble his career will continue to flourish. I can easily put down his past run-ins with the law as the result of being young and reckless. Now that he’s getting a little older, I hope he invests in himself and his future. I want his lyricism to become more distinctive from so many other similar sounding rappers, but above all else I want SpotemGottem to not be another young rap star tragedy.

SpotemGottem :: Back From the Dead
6.5Overall Score