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After reading PeD’s very arguable comments about Bay Area producers, I thought it was fitting that my last trip to the clearance rack involved me purchasing Shady Nate and Jay Jonah aka Da Heavy Hittaz’ contribution to DJ Fresh’s Tonite Show series. For those of you unfamiliar with this series or The World’s Freshest DJ, it’s time to acquaint yourself quickly. Each disc finds Fresh making all the beats while he chooses an artist/group to feature on the lyrical tip. He is by far one of the Bay Area’s most promising and without a doubt most hard-working producers, and this became blatantly evident last year. Fresh had about as ridiculous of a 2009 as one can have as a producer. In addition to releasing his own compilation album which featured his regular Tonite Show collaborators as well as Kool G Rap, Murs, The Jacka, Strong Arm Steady (with Mitchy Slick), E-40 and Too $hort, he handled the entirety of the production duties on albums for Frisco OG’s, San Quinn and Messy Marv, the newest Bay Area radio sensation, D-Lo, my favorite up and coming Yay Area spitter, Young Gully, The Grouch from The Living Legends (who is an ill producer in his own right), Wu-Tang’s own Raekwon (although it will unfortunately not see the light of day due to some label issues on Raekwon’s end), as well as the project I am reviewing for you today. From a producer’s stand point, handling 100% of the beats for over 8 albums in a single year is fucking mind-blowing. Than add the caliber and diversity of artists that he’s working with, and it is no surprise that he was awarded Producer of The Year at the 2009 West Coast Hip-Hop Awards.
Yet despite my love for Fresh, I have to admit that Shady Nate and Jay Jonah’s album is not the best example of his talent. If you want to hear something more representative of his skills check out The Tonite Show: The Album, The Tonite Show with Young Gully or D-Lo, or download his free beat tape Make The Song Cry Part 3. But back to this project, I think it’s needless to say that in a year when he is producing for the likes of Lex Diamond, E-Feezy Fonzarelly, Young Mess, and Fillmoe Quincy, it’s very unlikely that Fresh gave Nate and Jay Jonah the pick of the litter in terms of slapz. Additionally, if PeD had said that there were very few MC’s from the bay worth keeping an ear out for, I would have still disagreed, but understood where he was coming from much better. Shady Nate and Jay Jonah are perfect examples of the standard Bay Area rappers that are pretty average in talent, but rather than showing potential to be great, they leave the listener thinking that their skills and subject matter will most likely stay stagnant throughout their entire careers. I hope it’s not the case, because I think Shady Nate has some serious promise, but it’s definitely the sentiment this album gave me.
If I had to sum up the overall feel of the project I would probably use the same acronym I would use to describe the overall feel of the majority of Bay rap: M.O.B. While it’s perfectly normal to associate M.O.B. with the mob or mafia and all the incredible community building that they do, this time I’m referring to the M.O.B. that stands for Money Over Bitches. In reality the phrase should be Money Over Everything, but I guess M.O.B. has a nicer ring than M.O.E. One may ask, but how do they get this money? and the answer is that the two slang that white girl and rhyme about it, just like every other rapper. Yet musically, the thing that makes them stand out from their peers, is their willingness to actually ride the beat rather than spit 4 word bars. Also, while there are more fake drug dealers on wax than cannabis clubs in California, when someone from the Bay raps about it, you can be pretty damn sure that they mean it. Check the track record: Husalah just got out from a three-year bid for an interstate drug charge, his fellow Mob Figga Ap9 has served two felony terms, Messy Marv just got out from his second felony sentencing, this time for possession of an illegal automatic weapon, and Philthy Rich, the star of Discovery Channel’s Gang Wars: Oakland, got out of jail in 2008 for a drug charge and is already back in. And believe me, that’s barely scratching the surface. Yet if you still aren’t convinced, you have to listen to the way Bay Area rappers mix the glorification of drug dealing with acknowledgment of the downsides of the game as well. Actors like that fat security guard from Miami will only tell the world how good life is as a drug dealer, but you know someone’s actually been through it when they speak on the bad. Shady Nate’s solo track, “Niggas Gon Hate” is probably the best example of this. Over a moody DJ Fresh track that features his signature heavily reverbed yet pounding drums, Shady raps about the amount of hate that is felt toward you, from everyone to the police, to your enemies, to your baby momma, when you’re deep in the game. This track stands out, as does “Follow My Dreams” featuring Young Moses, due to the rappers’ willingness to speak on the fact that the drug game has a lot bad to it, and it’s something to seriously consider completely avoiding or moving away from. Being able to address the good and the bad associated with life in the streets, in a way that was free of preachiness, was what gave Gangsta rap credibility and legitimacy in the early 90’s, and it’s refreshing to hear newer artists in the Bay begin to hint at that talent.
Niggas Gon Hate
Yet unfortunately, hint was the key word in the last sentence. Too often do we find Nate and Jay Jonah spitting very standard drug dealing, super thug raps. By the time you’re 5 or 6 songs deep, you get the feeling that you’ve heard everything the MC’s have to offer. With song titles like “Crack Muzik”, “Superstarz”, “Mobbin”, and “The Graveyard Shift”, it’s pretty clear that the duo don’t spew a fountain of creativity in regards to song topics either. Yet despite how middle of the road I feel Shady and Jonah are as MC’s, they manage to employ the usage of guest rappers who for the most part make the two sound like master wordsmiths. Mista F.A.B. who normally spits tighter verses on other people’s tracks than he does on his own, gives a really lame performance. Killa Keise and his verse on “How I Fuck Wit It” makes you wonder once again, how he’s been rapping for so long, yet has somehow failed to improve. Finally, Lil Blood spits three of the worst verses on the album. His biggest problem is that a lot of time he doesn’t rhyme, and even worse, sometimes it’s at crucial points like, the last bar of a verse.
Yet to come full circle, no review of this album is complete without talking about DJ Fresh’s work behind the boards. As I said earlier, it’s not his greatest showing. There is nothing that you would say is straight up bad, yet too much of it is just average. Instrumentals like the ones for “Bottom of My Bottle”, “Crack Muzik”, “Baby Baghdad” (Yup, that’s what some people in the Bay are starting to call Oakland), “Mobbin”, and “The Graveyard Shift” can all serve a purpose on a project, but when put together on one, it feeds the listener too much forgettable music. At the same time, that’s not to say that there ain’t some high points on the disc either. Tracks like “Follow My Dreams” and “Prize Representaz” show why Fresh is the most in demand producer in Yay area. When he mix’s his main stream ready drums with a well chopped sample, DJ Fresh is not to be fucked with.
While this album won’t convince anyone that the Bay is putting out the dopest music in the country, if I learned one thing about Bay Area rap since my homecoming 6 months ago, it’s that anything with DJ Fresh’s name on it, is without a doubt worth a listen. In this case it was worth the $1.99 price tag, and a few more listens than one. Even if this CD isn’t awe inspiring, everyone reading this should check out as much of his shit as you can find. His beats are dope, and he has a lot more presentable material than Trackademicks. No hate involved PeD, but maybe some healthy debate will get these readers talking.