In five days go to your local record store, pick up a copy of Gangsta Grillz: The Album, go home and put it on the stereo, blow out your speakers. End of story, see you next time. If only every review was that easy. Gangsta Grillz is such a beast I could just stop at the intro and call it a day, but with DJ Drama the music’s only half the story. There’s also the legal…wait for it…drama surrounding the man. The Gangsta Grillz series has become a hip-hop institution, unfortunately it turns out the …
DJBooth Album Review
If only every review was that easy. Gangsta Grillz is such a beast I could just stop at the intro and call it a day, but with DJ Drama the music’s only half the story. There’s also the legal…wait for it…drama surrounding the man. The Gangsta Grillz series has become a hip-hop institution, unfortunately it turns out the feds were listening too. The government raided his offices, confiscated thousands of mixtapes, and charged him with racketeering (running an illegal business). Luckily Drama emerged from his battle with the law stronger than ever, taking his mixtape game to the next level with a Gangsta Grillz album.
Now believe it or not I try to make my reviews as objective as possible; meaning sometimes I have to search for bright spots in terrible albums (hello Craig David) to try and maintain some sort of balance. Well this album is so good I’m forced to do the opposite, try and come up with a legitimate reason not to buy Gangsta Grillz.
Gangsta Grillz is unapologetically Southern, the only exception being an interlude featuring Diddy trying, and failing, to sound gangster. So the album’s Southern, so what? If you’re hating on songs like Takin Pictures you’re so prejudiced it’s hopeless. The beat’s not incredible, but with a roster featuring Young Jeezy, Jim Jones, Rick Ross, Young Buckand T.I. it doesn’t have to. Only Drama could put together a line-up that allows us to directly compare the biggest MCs in the game (T.I. comes out on top), and for that alone he deserves respect. Besides Grillz isn’t all typically riding Southern production, Beneath the Diamonds is a butter smooth track revolving around string melodies and a quality Twista verse. Listen, Southern food isn’t my absolute favorite, but that doesn’t stop me from getting my grub on at Emmy’s Soul Food Shack. I suggest you stop hating and embrace Gangsta Grillz like it’s a plate of delicious chicken and cornbread.
It’s no coincidence that Willie the Kid, an up-and-coming rapper signed to Drama’s Aphilliates label, appears on the album an astounding six times. I bought this album to hear Jeezy’s verses, not Willie’s, but at least the kid’s a pretty good rapper. Hey it could be worse, there could be six Jim Jones appearances.
Even monstrous knocking beats and multiple verses get old after a while. Luckily Gangster Grillz switches up the style just enough to keep things interesting. Outkast’s contribution to the effort, The Art of Storytellin’ Part 4, is so unbelievably good I literally had to pull over when I heard it in my car. Name another song that hits you that hard. Cheers, the most feel good track on the album, doesn’t hold up quite as well thanks to an uninspired verse from Pharrell, but The Clipse prove once again that they’re shamefully underrated. If Gangsta Grillz starts to get a little repetitive just skip over to Storytellin' or Cheers, problem solved.
Nelly, T.I., Diddy, Yung Joc, Willie The Kid, Young Jeezy and Twista; I couldn’t f**k up a song with that line-up if I tried. Take those six verses, add a triumphant Jazze Pha beat, and you’ve got 5000 Ones, the most radio-friendly track on the album. It’s actually one of my least favorite tracks, the “make it rain” theme has become so tired, but drop dead flows from T.I and Twista make up for the formulaic subject matter. Now there is a noticeable drop-off on tracks with less star power (the ultimately forgettable Aye featuring Yung Joc and Big Kuntry for example) that makes you wonder how much of Grillz’s success is due to Drama and production partner Don Cannon, and how much is the predictable product of tracks with so many incredible rappers. In the end asking that question is like wondering if Vida Guerra’s breasts are real; does it really matter?
So there it is, the case against Gangsta Grillz. Anyone convinced? Me neither. Turns out that whether DJ Drama’s being grilled by DJBooth or the feds the result’s the same – he can’t be stopped. All hail Drama, the undisputed Mixtape (Album) King.
Listen to More: DJ Drama Written by Nathan S.
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"Takin Pictures" (2007)
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