The vast majority of the albums I find in the clearance rack are from underground or local artists. Although at this point I’ve bought 3-4 of Busta’s projects off the rack, for the most part, CD’s from main stream, commercially viable rappers are extremely difficult to find for $2. If they do exist, 99% of the time they are edited, or from an artist the Hip-Hop community is blissfully happy to have forgotten about, a la Lil Bow Wow or Will Smith. Still, every now and again you get surprised. Chances are, it won’t be by a corporate icon like Eminem or Jay-Z, but it is possible to get projects from their homies or label mates such as Obie Trice, or in my most recent case Beanie Sigel.
This past Wednesday, thanks to our incredible veterans, I had the day off from work, and decided to spend it by buying new music. Apparently no Hip-Hop fans had even glanced at the clearance rack in Amoeba for weeks, because by the time I was finished scanning all the rows of plastic rectangles, I had a stack of literally 30 rap CD’s that I had serious interest in, and I still had plans of picking up some jazz as well. In a perfect world, this wouldn’t be a problem in the least bit, but I have a limited income and had to cut the number down to around 9 discs, which is never an easy task for a music addict. After mixing and matching to have as diverse a line up as possible, I ended up with one commercial rap album: Beanie Sigel’s The Reason.
I’ve always felt pretty mixed on Beanie Mack. He’s never grabbed me as someone who has a career really worth following, yet every now and again he’ll surprise me with a truly impressive feature. Recently he came with some vivid imagery about jail on Only Built For Cuban Linx Two, “Barrel Brothers” was one of only a handful of quality songs found on Ghostface’s disappointing Big Doe Rehab, and he managed to hold his own on one of my all time favorite posse cuts, “Reservoir Dogs”, which is pretty impressive, because everyone gang raped and brutally mutilated the shit out of that track. On the other hand, a few years back, someone hooked me up with a copy of 2005’s The B. Coming. On initial scan I thought it sounded cool, but after sitting down with Sammy G and giving it a proper listen, we were both less than impressed by the monotonous last 2/3’s of the album. To this day, the sentiment I get about Beanie from those who haven given him more of a shot than myself, is that this is more often than not the case for his entire catalogue. Yet the Roc always got laced with some of the tightest production in the game, and when it was time to make a decision about The Reason, I felt like that alone was going to be worth the $2.99 price tag.
In my opinion the album starts with heat up front, then hits you with artificially induced narcolepsy in the middle, and if you can manage to wake up by the end, you can catch a couple of sentimental tracks that actually give quality insight into who Beanie is as a man. “Nothing Like It” starts the disc off with an impressive soulful beat from a pre-rap Kanye West. It’s the type of music that works great as opener, and it really got me excited for the rest of the album. Unfortunately, Beanie didn’t come with it on the lyrical tip. If he did, the song could have been one to remember, but instead he brings just enough to the table to make sure that it isn’t a disappointment. Yet on the next track, the bouncy Just Blaze produced “Beanie (Mack Bitch)”, Sigel shows much more excitement and energy. When he dropped “Nigga ask all your fiends/ They call me Chef Boyarbeans/ Beanie Crocker/ I cook coke proper”, I realized that it was still way too early to start zoning out. “Get Down” is another hardcore Just Blaze track that will probably make you want bang your head until you get whiplash, but after listening to it a couple of times, I wish the beat would do more than just the same 4 bar pattern for 5 minutes. Two of the tracks that I was most interested in were “I Don’t Do Much” and “For My Niggas”, because they were both produced by Rick Rock. Rick Rock has always been one of my favorite producers due to his ability to include enough variety that you never know what’s coming, yet at the same time maintain his signature sound. Also, being from the Bay, you know I gotta have major respect for any other baydestrian in the music world that gets love outside of Northern California. Yet in this case Rico was a major disappointment. “I Don’t Do Much” isn’t bad, especially since Beanie seems lyrically motivated on it and the beat was really cleanly mixed, it just doesn’t do much. The real problem is “For My Niggas”. Every aspect seems amateurish and uninspired, and it might be my least favorite Rick Rock beat of all time. Nuff said.
Beanie Sigel – I Don’t Do Much (Produced by Rick Rock)
Another reason I look for commercial albums is the features. I always like tracking the progression of today’s most praised artists. 2001 was around the time that Jay was getting unanimous votes for the best rapper alive, and he laces Beanie with two features on The Reason. “Think It’s A Game” is a crew track featuring Jigga, Freeway, and Lil Chris. Since this was during the birth of State Property, I wanted this to be a track full of starving motherfuckers ready to take advantage of every opportunity they had for exposure. Too bad that was far from the case. There is absolutely nothing about this song that would make you want to find out more about the crew, including Hov. Luckily, Jay more than made up for his lackluster performance on that track with his extremely personal verse on “Still Got Love For You”. The song is pretty much a sequel to “Where Have You Been” off of The Dynasty: Roc La Familia, where both Beanie and Jay write to their fathers who were nonexistent during their childhood. While Mack’s verse on this track isn’t quite up to par with his verse on “Where Have You Been”, Young Hov truly expresses his pain and childhood experiences artfully.
Beanie Sigel – Think It’s A Game ft. Jay-Z, Freeway, & Lil Chris (Produced by Bernard Big Demi Parker)
In summation, by being on Roc A-Fella, Beanie had to attempt to personify multiple personalities frequently found in Hip-Hop all at once. He’s the drug pusher, the fighter, the shooter, the ladies man, the family man, and the knowledgeable OG all in one album. Yet, he’s at his absolute best when he raps about what he knows, which is perfectly exemplified by “What Your Life Like 2”. I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard a more harrowing and realistic depiction of jail in song form. Songs like that just reinforce my immense fear of life behind bars. At the same time it helps me appreciate Mack. He’s never going to be a star, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have something of value to stay. It sucks that Jay abandoned his ass, but I can tell you this much, he needs to pay attention to the examples of Mobb Deep, M.O.P., and Ma$e. “Teaming” up with 50 Cent will not accomplish anything, except more publicity for 50. My advice, stay in Philly, becomes it’s Hip-Hop ambassador, and help build it’s reputation as one of America’s thriving rap communities.