Circle the date on the calendar, get out your diary, text your friends, because I’m about to write an extraordinarily rare sentence. I was wrong. Not only was I wrong, I was wrong about Jim Jones. It wasn’t long ago that I hated the raspy rapper, and not in the “hater” sense. I mean I hated him in the “I threw up in my mouth every time someone screamed Ballin!” sense. But things changed. First Jones talked openly on BET about AIDS’ terrible effect on his family, and I had to admit he was a … ...Read the full album review
DJBooth Album Review
Circle the date on the calendar, get out your diary, text your friends, because I’m about to write an extraordinarily rare sentence. I was wrong. Not only was I wrong, I was wrong about Jim Jones. It wasn’t long ago that I hated the raspy rapper, and not in the “hater” sense. I mean I hated him in the “I threw up in my mouth every time someone screamed Ballin!” sense. But things changed. First Jones talked openly on BET about AIDS’ terrible effect on his family, and I had to admit he was a man of remarkable courage. Then he expanded his often-monotonous flow on the surprisingly not-terrible Harlem’s American Gangster, and I had to admit he was decent rapper. And now that he’s formed the Byrdgang crew and dropped an impressive group album, I have to admit he’s a leader. I thought there was no way Jones would have last in hip-hop. I was wrong.
Since they first formed in 2006, the Byrdgang has undergone more changes than Lil Kim’s breasts. The gang started as a four man line-up before watching two members depart: Max B due to “creative difficulties” and Stack Bundles due to his tragic slaying, leaving just Jones and long-time collaborator Mel Matrix. Jones filled in the gaps by first adding NOE, then Sandman, and finally Chink Santana (who despite the name is not Juelz Santana’s racist Chinese brother). With the Byrdgang roster finally set, Jones and the boys have hit the streets and stores with M.O.B. The Album, an occasionally misguided but ultimately strong album that should still cement Jones’s place as a force in the game.
The album starts out with a musical crime scene as Mobbin swaggers and storms through the speakers. Green Lantern’s production is simultaneously ghetto and rich, like driving a Bentley while drinking Kool-Aid, and the whole crew drop blunt-force rhymes that may not be dope, but match the track’s stripped-down sound perfectly. On a side note, NOE’s voice sounds so much like Jay-Z’s you’ll find yourself constantly thinking “is that Hova?” every time he’s on the track, until you listen more closely and catch the lack of Jay-esque lyricism. More importantly, Byrdgang can do more (but not much more) than rhyme about moving weight. Splash brings together the two Santanas (Juelz and Chink), along with Jones and NOE, for some club-friendly vibes that manages to…wait a minute…I’m listening to the track again…no, I was mistaken. Splash is terrible. The concept’s weak, that ridiculously exaggerated “splash” is unintentionally hilarious, and Juelz’ verse is atrocious (“young flossy-floss, young flashy-flash”). I must have been thinking of some other song, maybe the atmospheric Money Right? Yeah, Money Right is a much better example of their ability to make songs for the club and the streets. My bad.
But enough messing around, let’s ask the really tough question: is M.O.B. a better album than G-Unit’s Terminate on Sight? I’m glad you asked. On one hand there’s no way Jones and his posse can match the 50 Cent media empire, and T.O.S. is certainly going to sell more. But on the other hand, if you were to take the average quality of rap on both albums, I’d have to give the slight edge, shockingly, to Byrdgang. The best comparison is undoubtedly Byrdgang Money, a song that could easily have been a Unit track in a parallel universe, right down to the half-spoken, half-sung hook. While Jones apparently still insists on spitting the same way every song, he’s managed to elevate his lyrical complexity above 50, NOE’s Hova impression gives Lloyd Banks a run for his money, and Mel Matrix is definitely on Tony Yayo’s level (which isn’t saying much). Even better, take Heartbeat, a track that shows the Byrdgang can drop the kind of emotionally-real track G-Unit would never touch. Then again, as I write those words I’m looking at M.O.B.’s track list and remembering just how bad tracks like Oopsy Daisy and She So Gangsta were. See, this is what happens when you admit you were wrong, you start doubting your judgment. Is M.O.B. just as good as Terminate On Sight, even though it won’t get nearly as much attention? Or are my expectations so low that when they’re surpassed I overreact? I honesty don’t know. I’m gonna have to leave the final word to you, loyal readers. We all need a shoulder to lean on sometimes, help me out here people.
Listen to More: Byrdgang Written by Nathan S.
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"Splash ft. Juelz Santana, NOE & Chink Santana" (2008)
Total DJ Booth Features:
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