Rapper becomes superstar. Rapper uses newfound fame to get his boys a record deal. His boys go...
DJBooth Album Review
The Speedknot Mobstaz probably won’t change the trend. The Mobstaz, comprised of the duo of Liffy Stokes and Mayz, have plied their lyrical trade on Chicago’s streets for years under the patronage of the legendarily hyperactive Twista. While the pair have certainly carved out a career on the underground market, it’s hard to believe they’ll ever achieve Twista’s level of national attention. Of course it doesn’t hurt that their new album Mobstability II: Nation Bizness has the words “Twista Presents” on the album cover, I probably wouldn’t be writing this review if it didn’t, but now comes the hard part - establishing their own identity.
I know what you’re thinking; their name has the word “speed” in it, they’re associated with Twista, they’ve got to be fast-spitting MCs. Wrong. Stokes and Mayz take a decidedly blunted approach, delivering their hard-laced rhymes with a style more like shotgun blasts than machine gun fire. If you need an example look no further than Tippin N’ Ballin, a monstrously produced track that’s the definition of grimy. The Mobstaz pace and stomp through the track, dropping rhymes as subtle as a punch to the sternum: “I’m broke, starvin and gang-bangin, I’m posted on the deck with Tecs to leave your brains hangin.” Any questions? Clearly Stokes and Mayz are gangstas, and as Fat Joe originally pointed out, Gangstaz Don’t Dance. It’s more than a statement, it’s a single, a clapping track that’s ironically one of the most danceable tracks on the album. The production is decidedly up-tempo and the Mobstaz respond with their fastest slow flows – it’s the hip-hop equivalent of watching Shaq run the fast break. Jim Jones even shows up to drop the same rhyme he’s been using since Ballin’. It’s a decent track, but if you’re not already a fan, this is not going to be the cut that does it.
The Mobstaz are so close to the streets you can feel the asphalt, but they do manage to expand their sometimes automated gangsta formula a few times on Mobstability. On the bulk of the album they make the criminal lifestyle sound like an career choice, but it’s not until Raised On The Block that we get a glimpse of the life experiences that molded them into outlaws: “I wanna chase my dreams but I gotta chase these fiends, cause your boy gotta stay gettin that money by any means.” It one of the few songs that offers a glimpse of anything resembling reflection, thanks in large part to a surprisingly soulful hook, and it’s a much needed reprieve. The pair even get quasi-political on Bush Made It Hard, a track that takes a deeper look at why Chicago’s streets are so ruthless. They’re not the first rappers to call Bush a hustler of epic proportions, “Bush done moved up to oil and said f**k cocaine,” but I never get tired of hearing the truth.
Let’s be honest, all you really want to know about Mobstability II is how many tracks Twista is on. He appears on eight tracks, dropping verses on four, and predictably manages to steal the spotlight on every one. Getcha Money Right would have been at home on Adrenaline Rush 2007, he quickly takes control of the hyper Nation Bizness, and while all three of them can say I’m A Speedknot Mobsta, only Twista makes it sound truly dope. That’s the dangerous game you play when you have a superstar sponsor. Avoid their presence and the public at large won’t pay attention (like Twista’s conspicuous absence from the lead single Money To Blow), include them too much and you’ll be completely overshadowed. It’s a hard balance to strike, and for the most part Mobstability II succeeds, but it’s just not enough to win them their own national audience.
DJBooth Rating - 3 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on May 29, 2008
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