“I couldn’t top my last smash hit, that’s what the critics said”

Funny — I might have been one of those critics. Those of us in the profession listen to modern rappers and marvel at how trash some of them are, but if you’ve been doing this for too long you also run the risk of reappraising mediocre rappers from the past as better by comparison. I’m guilty of this sin because MC Hammer records sound way better to me today than he did in his era. Thankfully Dana Dane exists to remind me that not all vintage rappers age like wine. Even back in the day I thought Dane was a Slick Rick wannabe who got lucky with a few good beats. He could have dropped the faux British accent, or he could have improved his lyric writing, but with 1995’s “Rollin’ Wit Dana Dane” he chose to do neither.

“My style will live forever, my fame will be maintained”

Where do I start with “Record Jock?” First of all it’s probably my least favorite use of Lou Donaldson’s “Who’s Making Love.” Classic record. There are many funky ways to sample it. Both Craig G and A Tribe Called Quest made all time great rap songs with it — “Droppin’ Science” and “Hot Sex” respectively. DJ Battlecat tried to make it a G-Funk thang, and while that might have worked if Warren G or Snoop Dogg was rapping over it, Dane and his cornball accent are not a good fit for the track. Instead of sounding cool it sounded incredibly awkward. It was like one of those really really old old school rappers trying to make a comeback over a different rap era’s music. It wound up downgrading Battlecat in the process and making him sound like a wannabe Dr. Dre producing a comeback for the wannabe Slick Rick. He didn’t need to go out like that.

There’s also a palpable level of desperation to songs like “Mama Told Me.” Dane is reaching all the way back to 1983 to reference New Edition’s second hit single “Is This the End” and I’d much rather listen to that slow jam than this 2Pac track. Seriously — Dana Dane can’t decide who he wants to impersonate nor can no name guests like Don Perryon. Producer Smash Money doesn’t provide anything better than Battlecat did and arguably did worse by making a song Shakur would have vetoed. It has the feel of something that would have come out on a posthumous record, and it’s one of many times Dana Dane complains on the album about signing a bad contract. “After sacrificing many years of my career, even I feared, I wouldn’t make it back here.” Bro everyone signed a bad contract back then. That’s why it was industry rule #4,080.

Complaining about his misfortunes is apparently what Dane does best though, as we’re treated to the unnecessary vanity of a “Booty Call” skit. Dana Dane pretends to listen to real voicemails and repeatedly acts insulted that the girls aren’t leaving numbers so he can call them back. It’s supposed to be for comedic effect (much like the album cover) but instead makes him come off like a shallow narcissist who thinks women only exist to serve his needs. Not only has this skit not aged well it has positively soured in the bottle. If someone were going to reissue this album in the present day they’d be well advised to leave this track off. No one is asking for this Dana Dane album and no one ever will, but that’s my free advice to anyone who even dares to think of it.

“Fort Greene (S)killz” provides one of the lone high points of this release. Produced by and featuring 3rd Rail along with a slew of other Fort Greene rappers, including the previously mentioned Don, this one at least has the feeling of a group of hungry aspiring rappers trying hard to get their big break. This lame album wasn’t their vehicle to the top but their passion is still commendable just the same. Meanwhile Dane himself can’t seem to make up his mind whether he’s the O.G. that demands respect and gets it (“Show Me Love”) or the sad sack who gets played out like he’s whack (“Ain’t No Love”) and the inconsistency hurts.

Much like the phone number he can’t connect to on this pointless skit the whole album feels out of touch. I may be bagging on Dana Dane hard but he had two choices when his career floundered after his sophomore album — get good or get gone. Instead he blames everyone else for his problems. “It wasn’t my fault my career flopped. The music industry played me.” Yeah, but you still sound like you did in the 1980’s, only now you’re trying to rap over Battlecat raps like a Cali emcee. It’s like he decided to pull an O’Shea Jackson in reverse, and unlike “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted” he didn’t create a classic in the process. The complete mismatch of sounds and styles, featuring a rapper who was always a poor man’s Richard Walters, results in “Rollin’ Wit Dana Dane” being an album that never needed to exist. It’s for the best this was his last album.

Dana Dane :: Rollin' Wit Dana Dane
5Overall Score