Good ol’ Eiht. Aside from some drama in the 1990s with DJ Quik, MC Eiht’s offer of solid West Coast gangsta rap that’s smooth, accessible, and authentic (Eiht was in the Crips) has always been reliable, if unremarkable. The Compton rapper has such a vast catalog at this point, that it’s difficult to get a firm grasp on it. Dropping albums annually, the 52-year-old manages to carefully navigate the dangerous waters that are grown men in middle age still retelling accounts from their lives thirty years ago. Partly this is because Eiht has stacks of charisma and an identifiable voice, but he’s also a master at repurposing his message. Snoop Dogg is similar – he probably writes and records these records in an afternoon, which helps explain the fact “Lessons 2” is his longest album yet. Twenty-six songs (eighty minutes!) is a lot, but it’s probably the most digestible double disc I’ve heard in years.

A sequel to his 2020 release “Lessons”, itself a twenty-track epic, it’s a stretch to consider we are getting genuine educational nourishment after the previous 25+ projects have been straightforward tales and advice from the violent streets of Compton. You’ll get some ‘game’, but nothing you wouldn’t find on Ice-T’s Twitter, and yet, listening to Eiht remains a pleasure all these years later. There are some moments of posturing, although genuine shock value and outright misogyny are pretty much non-existent – demonstrating how Eiht has aged gracefully as the OG. It does mean his albums lack an edge, or any real element of innovation, but his music retains a quality to it that is both modern and traditional.

Some songs feel like lost diary entries: asking himself if he should join the military on the wickedly catchy “Handle That”, or contemplating his sister having a baby with a rival gang member on “What U Use 2”. These are fascinating glimpses into Eiht’s life, but he rarely dwells on the details. It’s understandable considering the criminality of some statements, but it also restricts the listener from learning some real lessons.

Cali artists are renowned for their production, and Eiht albums can feel less bombastic than your Dr. Dre, Dilated Peoples, and DJ Mustard projects (or even the last Kurupt record with C-Mob) and there are some undercooked beats on “Lessons 2”. Considering how good “The Paper” is at kickstarting this epic, the second disc does suffer when it’s just Eiht and Dutch producer Ferhan C.

“Life Lessons” with E-40 is proper comfort hip-hop, as the two veterans share some tips on maintaining a lengthy career in rap. The E-40 verse isn’t particularly great, yet he completely steals the song (and the video) through sheer entertainment value. In fact, the collaborations throughout “Lessons 2” are all well done, and feel more underplayed than they were on records like “Which Way Iz West” when you had rhyme animals like Lady of Rage, Freddie Foxxx, and Xzibit dominating proceedings. This is an album that’s more well-rounded than his last few, and it’s nice to see returning guests from the first “Lessons” album: Dave East, Tha Chill, Mitchy Slick and DJ Premier all revisiting Eiht, with Primo perhaps the most disappointing as he scratches over a Ferhan C production on “Westside Gunnz”. It’s still a tough, mean-mugger of a track, but it’s not the standout single that was 2020’s “Honcho” with Conway the Machine. That track still gets regular play!

When you look at the current crop of West Coast emcees (Roddy Rich, Saweetie et al) you don’t really get that same sense of work ethic. The Game’s last album was 31 songs and E-40 has more albums than he’s had hot dinners. The Odd Future and Black Hippy collectives went a different route, carving out careers from more considered albums, rather than endless hours of “brand rap”. That’s essentially what MC Eiht produces, and always has done, his brand of hip-hop is a throwback in some ways, throwaway in others, But it’s always worth a spin, and while it’s difficult to hurl buckets of acclaim at a two-disc MC Eiht project, I’ve been spinning it for weeks trying to wrap my head around why I liked it so much. Eiht may not necessarily be teaching with his lessons, but he’s a voice I want to listen to. He knows what his strengths are, and he continues to play to them. With some better production, this could have been an easy recommendation, but as it is, “Lessons 2” caters for long-time fans of MC Eiht, and provides enough reasons to introduce new fans to his style of gangsta rap.

MC Eiht :: Lessons 2
7Overall Score