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DJBooth Album Review
Then there’s the third kind of mixtape, the ones hungry MCs drop to establish themselves as legitimate forces in the game. Case in point; J.R. Writer and his latest project Writers Block 5. Writer is a Harlem-born rapper with a tongue hardened by years of street battles who's become the rising star of the Dipset crew (and alleged ghostwriter for Jim Jones). Writer’s Block is a lyrically-heavy mixtape that’s occasionally light on production, but the mixtape’s supposed to announce J.R. as a force to be reckoned with – notice has been served.
Writer’s target audience for Writer’s Block 5 is people like me, listeners who weren’t fully convinced he’s a noteworthy MC. By the time the aptly-titled Intro had ended I was a believer. Intro’s got a triumphant beat worthy of a Rocky movie and Writer’s punchline-filled verses demand a pen and a notebook: “you couldn’t be as better/even if you got Dre and Swizz to do a beat together/take a nap in the fridge, you still won’t be no fresher.” Be on the lookout for rappers who steal those lines in battles. Writer’s full lyrical fury is unleashed on Where You At, the kind of crushing track Dipset members all seem to do so well. The production is worthy of being a boxer’s entrance music and while Writer’s “check the swagger I flash” rhyme-style isn’t exactly groundbreaking, he absolutely nails every syllable. Writer claims he spits “crack rhymes,’ and I’ll admit I’m already awaiting my next fix.
There’s no doubt J.R. could go head-to-head with any battle rapper out there, the question is whether he can translate his concrete-laced style into commercial success. I’m honestly just not sure. Make A Move is the most radio ready track on Writer’s Block, an electronically driven cut featuring Slim of 112 fame crooning a hook tailor made for the clubs. Make A Move will definitely have the Patron flowing, but Writer’s distinctively aggressive wordplay disappears when he concentrates on bottle poppin’ rhymes. Without memorable lines like “my tires is skinny as the Olsen twins” (from the track Heavy Jewelz) he loses the originality that separates him from all the other bejeweled rappers. They Don’t Really Want It raises the exact same concerns. It’s not that it’s a bad track, if you’re not nodding your head to the victorious production you don’t have a spine, it’s just that Writer’s flow is so much better when he's unleashing outright lyrical rage on tracks like Beast Mode (props for the Transformers reference). Writer just needs to figure out how to make his street-born style more commercially successful while maintaining his creativity. Maybe Juelz Santana could give him some advice.
Mixtapes almost always contain tracks that shouldn’t ever make it out of the studio and Writer’s Block is no exception. Congratulations J.R., this mixtape officially marks the 370,000 time a rapper has titled their track What A Thug About, and I’m still not clear exactly what a thug’s about; besides ripping off a chopped n’screwed chorus and some stale lines about heaters that will peel back your skull. Even worse is Runner, a track so bad I’m almost embarrassed to bring it up. The beat’s a basic one-note horn sample, broken up only by roadrunner cartoon sound effects; Runner, roadrunner, get it? Plus he’s got a habit of saying “spectacular” at the beginning of songs (think DJ Khaled, except much less annoying). But for all my complaining I would still rather listen to talented young artists like J.R. striving for greatness than watered down major releases by complacent superstars any day. By any measure Writer’s earned hip-hop’s respect, it’s time he started getting more of it.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 11/20/07
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