There are three possible reasons we haven’t heard from Lil Debbie since “OG in My System.” The first would be that the famous snack cake maker took issue with her name’s similarity to their trademark and issued a cease and desist. The second would be that she took on a new role behind the scenes of the music industry instead of being in the limelight. Trust me this happens far more often than you’d think. Artists realize that instead of trying to nickel and dime a living from royalties and/or touring, they could transition to being an A&R or marketing executive. The third reason is the least flattering — she realized nobody cared about her music and retired without any fanfare.

It’s not hard to imagine the latter possibility. Jordan Mary Capozzi has both the look and name that implies she’s a spoiled Italian-American princess. Saying people who come from affluence can’t be artistic is harsh, and conversely nobody wants artists to be broke and starving just to fuel their creative drive. There is a core of truth to it at the heart of hip-hop culture though as noted by authors like Jeff Chang in “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop.” A lack of economic options forced young black entrepreneurs to build something from nothing. Turntables were never meant to be instruments. Emceeing and beatboxing took the place of a live band. Deejays were making loops from breakbeats long before there were samplers. Graffiti artists used inner city walls to express themselves when canvas and oil paint weren’t within reach. Poverty shouldn’t be the sole driver of creativity, but necessity +is+ the mother of invention.

California Sweetheart” was Capozzi’s first full-length attempt to prove she could be an authentic rapper without being viewed as a cultural appropriator. She was actually at an advantage in this respect in 2014 thanks to having broken ties with the White Girl Mob. Whether you love or hate the likes of Kreayshawn and V-Nasty, there’s no doubt Debbie would have been viewed as riding off the coattails of their infamy. Despite coming from the heavily segregated and affluent city of Albany, she certainly talks like she’s from Oakland or Vallejo on “Bay 2 LA,” even bragging she’d ghostride the whip. “It’s on on sight in this motherfucker.”

It’s +very+ hard to take this seriously. It’s not that she’s white or that she’s female, even though I know some people who would say “the patriarchy” is out to get her. No matter what her gender or demographic, a song like “Parody” hits uncomfortable close to the truth. She says she’s “laughing at bitches like parodies” when in fact she’s the one who sounds like she’s insincerely imitating rap tropes. “I am literally unfuckwittable/Flow like my pussy is, that’s unforgettable/Roll me a spliff or two/Bag me a bitch or two, that’s what that liquor do/ooh!” She talks more like a G than an OG. It sounds weird. I can’t help but feel like Meadow Soprano is trying to rap to me.

California Sweetheart” was originally released as two separate extended plays before being repackaged as a full length album. That’s certainly preferable as I can’t imagine anybody buying both individually. Sometimes the production adds something to the presentation her unconvincing vocals don’t, such as the minimalistic and hyphy energy of “Buss It” or the silly nursery rhyme meets A$AP Rocky energy of the title track. Unfortunately there’s only so much of her “nails on a chalkboard” vocal tone you can take. Again love or hate rappers like Kreayshawn, it’s whatever to me, but listening to “Gucci Gucci” actually made me think she was hella Yay Area. I just don’t get that energy from Debbie.

Some people say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I think any of the rappers who had to struggle coming up wouldn’t be flattered by Lil Debbie. She sounds like she decided to become an emcee out of sheer boredom, for lack of anything better to do, as a good way to kill time between smoking joints and shopping at the mall. She’s also far from the worst rapper, male or female, white or otherwise I’ve heard. At least she mastered the basic art of staying on beat, not tripping over her words, and shopped around for some competent production to support her. The nicest thing I can say about “California Sweetheart” is that she’s not terrible, but the most honest thing I can say is that there’s no substance to anything she says.

Lil Debbie :: California Sweetheart
5Overall Score