The question is not; is Shawty Lo’s new album Units In The City terrible? The question is;...
DJBooth Album Review
Before I start really digging in, let’s take a step back and review how we got to here. On a smaller scale Shawty was the frontman of D4L, the group that brought Atlanta’s snap music scene to the national scale with the guilty pleasure smash Laffy Taffy. D4L quickly faded from the spotlight (who saw that coming?) and now Lo’s on the solo tip. Simple right?
Almost. On a larger scale, Units In The City is the perfect example of what happens when a rapper manages to convince himself that he’s a “great artist” because he sold a million ring tones. Common is a great artist. Alicia Keys is a great artist. Picasso was a great artist. Shawty Lo is a man who sold a bunch of ringtones. Call me a hater if you will, but even Helen Keller could hear that he can’t rap. By which I mean he possesses absolutely no musical talent. At all. Microphones should take out restraining orders against him. Other than that small fact, it’s actually a pretty good album.
What do you do when you have no real skill? You bite other peoples’ style, and Shawty Lo spends the bulk of Units In The City sounding like a cross between Mase and an asthmatic Young Jeezy. Meaning he raps so slow you can actually hear him thinking about the next line, and once the words leave his mouth they come out in an unvaryingly raspy whisper. Take the first song off the album, 100,000, a track with homemade quality production and a hook that features this lyrical gem: “I’m a broke ho’s dream, a rich ho’s cream.” What makes Shawty’s decision to rap so slow even more puzzling is the fact that he rhymes with a noticeable lisp. It’s what I picture Mike Tyson would sound like if he decides to start rapping (Mike, if you’re reading this, don’t get any ideas). It’s the same story throughout the whole album: Cut The Check, Foolish, Got Em 4 The LO, Shawty spends every song drowsily lisping his way through verses about bank rolls and his favorite subject, himself.
Except for when he switches things up and tries to sound like T.I. for a minute on Dunn Dunn, the second single off Units In The City. Shawty tries to incorporate some swagger and snarl into his rhymes but he’s not even in the same ballpark as The King, even if they are from the same city. I don’t doubt that when it comes to the streets Shawty has in fact dunn it all, he’s apparently renowned for speaking the truth about his native Bankhead, but at the end of the day he’s just not a very good rapper. And as a hip-hop music reviewer, that’s a little hard to overlook.
I can hear them now: but Nathan, what about Dey Know? That song’s a straight banger!” You’re absolutely right, Dey Know is an unstoppably dope song – when almost anyone else raps over it. The official remix features a cast of Southern rhyme talent that prove what happens when epic production and true mic talent come together and the Clipse predictably murder their version on their last mixtape. Dey Know would have been better off in almost anyone else’s hands, and the proof is in the remix.
Believe it or not, I don’t like being this negative. I really don’t. Some people deserve to be knocked down a couple notches, Shawty Lo isn’t one of them. When he takes a detour into slightly more uncharted waters, most notably on the piano-laced track Live My Life, the results offer a glimpse of a man with musical ability and vision, and that glimpse is the only this saving this album from complete disaster, but it’s not nearly enough. There’s just no way around it, Units In The City is a terrible album. Period. It’s unquestionably the worst album of 2008, but take hope, the year is still young. There are plenty of opportunities for someone to take Shawty’s place at the bottom. After all, we’re still waiting for that Yung Berg album to drop.
DJBooth Rating - 1.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 02/28/08
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