Creative issues accompany longevity in nearly every case in the rap game. Once success has been maintained, and the artist in question is clearly not a one-hit wonder, a struggle to please fans while still making artistic strides arises. Ask all of the greats; no one has been spared this test, and for each artist that has passed, many more have seen their downfall. Failure comes in two forms. The first is when an attempt to evolve is deemed unsuccessful by critics and fans. The second comes around when the formula used throughout a rapper's career grows tiresome to the masses. Neither exit is graceful, but no one should feel ashamed. We Americans are capricious, and every star in the hip-hop sky is certain to burn out. Some just last longer than others.
The Dayton Family is a true Midwest stalwart. The group, consisting of Shoestring, Bootleg, and Ghetto E, has undergone plenty of changes in their ten years of existence, but their frame has remained untouched. While many rap groups are broken up in disagreements, the law is responsible for the musical chairs that have occurred within the Family. Steve Hinkle, a founding member, departed after their 1995 debut "What's On My Mind?" with legal troubles, making way for Ghetto E. After their second album, "F.B.I.," Bootleg was indicted as well, and since then even more problems have mounted. A third album on Esham's label arrived in 2002, and their tenth year of existence brings us "Family Feud." Oddly enough, Ghetto E is conspicuously missing from the cover as well as the shout-outs.
As is the case with any regional group, the Dayton Family's home of Flint, Michigan, is a source of pride. Amongst all of the rap groups in the nation, they will be known to listeners as representatives of Flint, and they realize that. The music on "Family Feud" is rooted in this region, despite the fact that most of their subject matter is rather standard. The title track opens the record, and the duo exhibits a confident tag-team flow in describing the consequences of messing "with the branches of my family tree." The first true song, "Bulldoggin'," follows. In a refreshing departure, the song acts as an ode to a different type of bitch, complete with background barking noises. Unfortunately, Gee Pierce's beat is quite standard, with electronic heavy metal noises and piano loop.
The other concept song comes in at track four. "Chevy" details the group's love affair with their favorite brand of car, and features production that is nearly identical to "Bulldoggin'," again courtesy of Gee Pierce. This time, the only difference is that the keyboards sound a bit tweaked. Luckily, "What Would You Do" slows the pace down with an R&B tint, and the gravelly voices provide a striking contrast with J. Notiq's sultry beat. Here, both artists touch introspectively on several subjects, which is a complete departure from the violent braggadocio throughout most of the album.
An excessive 19 full-length songs leaves plenty of room for error. For the most part, the only songs that stand out do so because of a notable beat or a guest spot. "Hate Me if You Wanna" breaks no ground lyrically, but Timothy "Pee Wee" Moore hooks up some excellent music for the Dayton Family and their guest Billy Smokes to spit through. "What Is Your Issue" is also laced by Moore, and an amusing, unorthodox chorus adds to the pleasant, soulful sentiments provided by the beat.
Cormega stops by on "Reckless" to drop a memorable verse, which sounds especially lucid over a heavy, smooth loop that MoSS provides. The depth and variety that Cormega's voice brings is essential, because by track twelve, the voices of Bootleg and Shoestring have begun to grate on the ears. Kurupt swings by on the next song to assist, and in between un-guested songs like "I'm a Gangsta" and "Formula 51," his smoky voice is an absolute blessing.
A couple of other significant cuts fill out the album, along with lots of mediocre stuff. For every stellar track there are at least two that simply can't come alive. Both emcees are capable, but memorable bars are scattered with some distance in between. If you've grown accustomed to the rough deliveries of these two, you'll be right at home, but too much time is wasted on too little. They deserve some credit because the lyrics should maintain interest at least for a listen or two, but there is little depth to be explored. The production is standard hip-hop fare, with a few sub-par crunk anthems mixed in with the inorganic sounds that have been collected. Nearly every song is very uptempo, which doesn't help since the variety of music is already quite thin. Finally, since their topics are so uniform to rap music, without the occasional mention of Flint, "Family Feud" would be indistinguishable from the hip-hop being crafted in other regions of the country. In an age in which regional flavor means so much, the Dayton Family hasn't managed to capture a distinctive sound.
If a handful of songs, at least, had been cut from "Family Feud," the Dayton Family would have fared much better. As is, the record is a mess of noises, some of which is far more compelling than the rest. The caliber of guests (Cormega, Capone, Kurupt, MC Breed) indicates the respect the Family deservedly receives, but on this release they don't quite get it right. Hopefully this isn't their swan song, because it will only keep their faithful happy.
Music Vibes: 5.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 5.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 5.5 of 10
Originally posted: August 9, 2005