When I think about reviewing any album I check our own archive to make sure it hasn’t already been done. We’ve got over 10,000 articles here dawg, I kind of have to do that. The last write up I could find for Hell Rell was in 2008, and “Get In Line or Get Lined Up” came out March 24, 2009. Speaking of that review, writer Justin Chandler said “If you want a run of the mill gangster rap album then feel free to pick this up, but otherwise give a long listen before considering a purchase” before Rell basically dropped off the map. “Get In Line” didn’t chart on the Billboard Top 200 for album sales, no singles charted either, and I can personally attest to having not bought the CD. Even Rell’s DipSet affiliates save for 40 Cal seemed to distance themselves. The only notable cameos here Young Buck on “Where Ya At,” and Lil’ Fame and Styles P on the “Hardest (Remix).”
That’s not a coincidence. Rell gave an interview in 2008 where he said he was no longer under contract with The Diplomats and that he wanted to focus more on his solo career. It wasn’t long before the entire DipSet broke apart into increasingly smaller sets, like a reverse Wu-Tang Clan without the camaraderie to come back together after the side projects. The saddest part is that other than Juelz Santana, Hell Rell had the best chance of succeeding on his own. His deep baritone voice and no-nonsense bars made his appearances stand out on even mediocre Diplomats tracks, and all of that is on display on songs like “One Eight Seven.” He thugs it out without any Milltainment: “Nah man! I don’t give a fuck who’s the hottest or hardest/Gonna be a one eight seven in progress, regardless.”
“Get In Line or Get Lined Up” leaves us with more questions than answers. Why did 40 Cal stay down (appearing twice) when none of the other DipSet rappers did? Why did a rapper who had a solid reputation in a banal group not have more success when he left them behind? Like so many rappers from the late 2000’s who were hot for a minute, Hell Rell wound up going the mixtape route, releasing over a dozen such projects to increasingly little exposure. The writing may have already been on the wall though when Rell felt the need to promote his upcoming street albums on this album at the end of tracks like “Damn I’m Cool.” It still seems like Rell got the shaft though.
I should put “seems” in quotation marks though. Yes — everything feels like you should have sympathy for Hell Rell. The DipSet ignored him, the record buying public ignored him, and yes we ignored him too. This review is way too late to make a difference in his career positively or negatively. There’s some irony in songs like “I’m So Special” though. It’s a good song and the bars are delivered with authority, but the style of the production and the slight slur of his delivery make him sound like a knockoff Curtis Jackson. That makes him a listenable rapper but it also means he’s not “special” as such since if you had to choose between 50 Cent or Hell Rell, you’d choose 50. Rell is a decent rapper but he’s not as charismatic, funny or intriguing as 50. There can only be one 50 Cent in a generation and sadly for Hell Rell he’s not it. This is a fine album, but it’s not special.