For reasons that are unfathomable even to me, it’s now apparent that I will ultimately review every album Schoolly D ever released. I honestly could have stopped at “Saturday Night” because that was the high water mark of his entire career, and if it weren’t for Aqua Teen Hunger Force he could have easily slid into “Where Are They Now?” obscurity. Nevertheless the renewed interest ATHF brought to a true progenitor of gangster rap was well deserved. Even if it’s comical to read Wikipedia entries that state “the album was a commercial disappointment” or “the record failed to chart,” the truth is that D’s relevance extends far beyond the success of any one album (or lack thereof). If you don’t acknowledge how influential and funky records like “Gucci Time”, “P.S.K.” and “Saturday Night” are then you aren’t telling the full story of Philadelphia, the rise of the anti-hero in pop culture, and the fundamental shift from lighter rap fare to darker more “cinematic” rap records in the mid-to-late 1980’s.

Now that doesn’t make albums like “Welcome to America” good by default. Respect for a pioneer and what he accomplished is important, but blind hero worship would ignore how poor “Niggas Like Me” is musically. “Fuck the NAACP/what they doin for a nigga like me?/I don’t need a 9 to 5/I gotta buck buck buck just to stay alive.” If there’s an irony to rap history it’s that crass, unapologetic raps of D would both inspire the likes of N.W.A and subsequently leave him in the dust. He winds up sounding like he’s biting their style instead of them being inspired by his. The production is as uninspired as the bored raps being spit by D. He says “I sell crack to your neighbor” with the enthusiasm of a methadone patient. If he was trying to scare WASPs and Southern Baptists to get them up in arms and generate the furor his records did in the 1980’s, this wasn’t the way to do it. Even the chorus of women cooing that his “dick is the best” sound unconvincing.
The one thing a gangster rap pioneer should never sound like is a try hard. Being a real G should come effortlessly, and titling a song “I Shot Da Bitch” is pretty much the opposite. It’s not just the unnecessary phonetic spelling, it’s the fact he’s revealing the outcome of the song before he can tell the story. It would be like watching “The Empire Strikes Back” only George Lucas decided to call the movie “Darth Vader Is Luke’s Father.” Do you see what I mean here? By the time Schoolly D gets around to shooting “da bitch” I had already lost interest in the fact he “had to motherfuckin’ gat a ho.” His excuse for doing it could be shocking… if it wasn’t delivered in such a monotone, somnambulant way. If you want a hardcore rap song to take a nap to, “I Shot Da Bitch” is your hook up.

“Another Sign” is the only song I remember getting any traction off this album. I can’t say that it charted or helped the performance of this release (I have no evidence of either) but I know it got play on MTV back in the day. In fact if you could find a twelve inch or CD single of it, I’d recommend you grab it and skip the rest of this album. D’s lack of interest in his raps is just as clear here as on any other song, but the guitar samples and the uncredited singer on the hook carry D exactly as far as he’d go in 1994. That’s not far, but at least it’s not rock bottom.

At least there’s a self-evident honesty to songs like “I Wanna Get Dusted.” I firmly believe Jesse Weaver is not putting on a persona here. This was a statement of what interested him at this point in his life, and rapping was definitely not it. He had achieved some notoriety from his songs appearing in Abel Ferrara films, but not enough to bank off it commercially, so he just went through the motions and churned out albums like “Welcome to America” with as little effort as possible. The best thing I can say about Schoolly D’s sixth studio album is that it’s not the nearly unlistenable mess that his 21st century release “International Supersport” is. That’s it. I highly recommend you don’t buy or listen to this CD.

Schoolly D :: Welcome to America
4Overall Score