Everyone wants to be successful, but there is a kind of success that doesn’t get talked about often. When we think of hip-hop success we think of private jets, legions of Lamborghinis and enough cash to swim in Scrooge McDuck style, but the truth is that, like sperm, 99.9% of rappers perish chasing this golden dream. Instead, there’s a different breed of success that aspiring rappers should really be aiming for. While they may not be filthy rich, there’s a small class of rappers who have managed to make music their way for years, and …
DJBooth Album Review
For over nearly two decades 8Ball (the big one) and MJG (the one with long hair) have represented their Memphis hometown to the fullest, dropping a prodigious eleven albums, earning respect from both fans and becoming go-to guest artists for Southern bangers (a.k.a. their Three 6 collabo smash Stay Fly). While not household names, they’ve earned a damn good living doing what they love, and isn’t that really the definition of success? Now, having left Diddy’s chronically underachieving Bad Boy South for T.I.’s Grand Hustle (a much better fit), 8 Ball and MJG have released their latest ode to pimpin, smokin and rhymin Ten Toes Down, an album that won’t rewrite hip-hop history, but will add yet another solid chapter to 8Ball and MJG’s already impressive catalog.
Let’s be real. When you pick up an 8Ball and MJG album you’re looking for tracks like I Don’t Give a F**k. Featuring a verse and a lushly riding beat from David Banner, Don’t Give a F**k is the anthem of a group that’s always done things their own way: “I’ma die grippin my nuts, with a think booty b**tch in a big body truck.” You’ve got to appreciate the honesty. Speaking of David Banner, we might as well transition into the album’s other Banner-assisted joint We Come From, a track that’s not only a Southern anthem, but one of my favorite cuts on the album, thanks to a speaker busting beat and grits-fueled rhymes. It’s important to pause for a moment to recognize that while 8Ball and MJG can certainly be profane, their music is also deeply personal, honest and can even be uplifting at times, qualities shared both by Come From and the more slowly paced Life Goes On. 8Ball and MJG really only do one thing – big Southern hip-hop – but that doesn’t make them, or Ten Toes Down, one-dimensional.
“Radio will never play it but this here will never die. I’m talkin bout gangster music.” When I heard that line on the absolutely filthy title track Ten Toes Down I thought it could very well serve as 8Ball and MJG’s mantra, but somewhat disappointingly there are moments on the album when their minds obviously turn to hit making, starting with Spotlight. Easily the most danceable cut on the album, Spotlight features a bouncing beat, a club ready hook and some female friendly lyrics (relatively speaking). It’s not Low, at one point they seem to be more interested in hitting the waffle house than sexy dimes, but it’s as close as 8Ball and MJG are going to get. While Spotlight may be the most obvious example, it’s not the only time on Ten Toes Down the duo lighten the mood. She’s So Fine is (obviously) their quas-r&b ladies’ jam, and there’s really only one reason you secure a Soulja Boy guest verse (F**k U Mean). Radio could use some more 8Ball and MJG, though there’s no denying tracks like these are also Ten Toes Down’s weakest links.
I want to end on a high note, so let’s talk about What They Do, a funk-laced, hater free, T.I.-containing party anthem. If you needed proof that their decision to move to Grand Hustle was the right one, here it is. What They Do manages to be simultaneously street, swaggering and fun, a perfectly balanced mix that makes it the album’s best. Still, even with tracks like What They Do, if you’re not already an 8Ball and MJG fan it’s hard to believe Ten Toes Down will change your mind, but honestly, it doesn’t really matter what you think. 8Ball and MJG were here far before the new era of ringtone rap took hold, and they’ll be here long after. They’ve earned it.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 05/12/10
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