David Banner is not your average rapper/producer/philanthropist. Raised under the scorching...
DJBooth Album Review
But as he points out on his new album, The Greatest Story Ever Told, that versatility is both a blessing and a curse. It’s made him creatively driven enough to want to push the limits of hip-hop, while also allowing him to know that if he wants to succeed, he’s got to give the people what they want (and what they want is more of the same). Or as he said in an interview with our own DJ Z, “I’ve realized it’s a whole lot more than just about music – as a matter of fact, I’m findin’ out in the day and age that we’re in now, music is probably the least most important.” Ironically, it’s exactly that realization that holds back this story from truly being the greatest ever. It’s a damn fine album, but there’s no escaping the feeling that he’s constantly holding back from his true capabilities.
Come on. I don’t care how much of a NY City backpacker you are, how underground you live, how much you hate on the South, admit it, you dig Get Like Me. It’s been weeks since Get Like Me’s hit the radio waves and I’ve yet to see anyone hear the bounce on that beat and not nod their heads. That addictive beat is exactly the reason Get Like Me has become a hit, that and the Chris Brown appearance (unlike his recent Untitled appearance, Brown’s clean cut swagger works perfectly here). In fact the only mistake Banner made is not naming the track Stuntin’ Is A Habit, which is what everyone I know calls it anyway, but hey, no one’s perfect. True to his word, Banner has soaked Greatest Story in a bath of tracks that should give the people what they want, from the Lollipop sample on the riding Shawty Say to the Play-esque A Girl. There all expertly crafted tracks, and I’m not stepping in between Banner and his much-deserved cash flow, I was just hoping for more from a man who takes his name from The Incredible Hulk.
Which brings me to one of the strangest elements of The Greatest Story; considering the staggering amount of heavyweight features, surprisingly few of his collaborations really work. Let’s start with 9 MM, a perfect example of the parts not adding up to a whole. 9 MM starts with some inspired production, sharp horn blasts lead into a gunfire bursting beat, but Akon’s chorus sounds like, well, like every Akon chorus, Weezy’s verse is only average (for him), and while Snoop delivers his trademark lazy swagger with precision, it’s not enough to make 9 MM truly bang. Similarly, Ball With Me has the potential to be a standout considering the combined rap IQ of Banner and guest artist Chamillionaire, but frustratingly the track disintegrates into just another track with “a group of kids singing the chorus” (you know the kind). For some reason Greatest Story is like the Bermuda Triangle of guest features; great rappers go in, but mysteriously, great tracks don’t come out.
Banner is at his most compelling when he cuts through the radio-ready haze and simply assaults the mic with his bulldozer lyrics, lion heart and razor sharp mind - luckily Greatest Story crackles with at least a couple of those moments. Crucially, the album starts off with the pounding So Long, a track that doubles as marching orders for soldiers in a new war; “When do we stop pimpin and start sprayin, 50 shots for every cop that shot Sean Bell.” If no one else will say it, Banner will (even Nas at his most radical won’t talk about shooting cops), and it’s those moments that truly distinguish Greatest Story. While there are a few other instances of heartfelt musical bravery on the album, the soulful Cadillac on 22s (Part 2) for example, they feel set adrift in a sea of big beats and bigger hooks. I truly believe that someday Banner will perfectly balance those two worlds, and when he does the results will be legendary, but today is not that day.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on Jul 16, 2008
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