Critics can be pretty damn hard to please. Come up with an album full of thoughtful meditations and we’ll stay awake just long enough to let the world know they shouldn’t buy your album. Pack your album with shallow club bangers and we’ll be hell-bent on proving you’ve got the mental capacity of a retarded third-grader. Nothing short of perfection is going to make us happy, and no one’s perfect (except for Alicia Keys, almost). So what’s a musician to do? I’m only giving this little critique of critics because I’ve been so hard pressed …
DJBooth Album Review
I’m only giving this little critique of critics because I’ve been so hard pressed to write the review for Trel Mack’s new album Mack of the Year. I’m not sure how one gets named mack of the year, I imagine it’s something like the Heisman race only more mackilicous, but I do know this is my third attempt to explain the musical output of the young Philly native. The first time around I was too harsh, taking cheap shots at his propensity for not-so-creative song titles like Playa Hata. On the second try I went the opposite direction, pointing out that at times Mack of the Year sounds like a skinnier version of College Dropout. Well, like a hip-hop version of Goldilocks, I’m hoping the third go around is just right. And for the record, I’m the only writer in the game with the cojones to call himself a “hip-hop goldilocks.”
Trel Mack seemingly operates with three different styles, the first being some sort of Chamillionaire-50 Cent-Mims hybrid, an MC who loves electronic bass and singing his own hooks off-key. The aforementioned Playa Hata has no shortage of speaker rattling hits and ringing bell harmonies, but if this was the only Trel Mack song you ever heard you’d think he’s the kind of guy who’s idea of wordplay is rhymes like “if you know I’m off the hook why don’t you hang up the phone,” and “you’s a playa hata, know I’m bout my paper…” Luckily Playa Hata is more the exception than the rule, even when placed next to his other harder-laced tracks. Although Freeway might disagree about who’s really the Heart of Philadelphia, Trel lays down an ode to his hometown that rumbles across the speakers with equal parts banging production and organ notes. If this was the second Trel Mack song you ever heard you’d think he was a promising young rapper with the ambition to “make em understand I’m the king” and enough talent to make the jump to the next level.
Trel loves the ladies; what do you expect from someone who’s last name is Mack? But crucially Trel defies expectations by proving he really does love the ladies, not just f---ing them. The production on Closer 2 U is absolutely shining, right down to the breezy melody and wind chimes. If it’s true that women aren’t used to men treating them right, and they sadly aren’t, than Trel's earnest vocal delivery and smooth tongue should have no shortage of wooed women following him offstage. Going a step further he brings an actual woman on the track for Ghetto Fabolous (there’s that played-out song title thing again), featuring the hypnotic vocals of newcomer Crystyle, who sounds like a long lost Destiny’s Child member. For his part Trel showcases his ability to put together intelligent party rhymes, a seemingly simple skill that’s clearly beyond the reach of some rappers. Ghetto Fabolous isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s a good time, and sometimes that’s enough.
Where Trel Mack really shines is when he relies on his skills instead of worn-out concepts. The title track Mack of the Year throws down some soul-infused production for Trel to get down to, and he obliges with a stereotype-breaking mix of lyricism and dead-on delivery. Even more impressive is Lock Me Up, a track that dares you to resist engaging in some intensive head-nodding while Trel delivers his most dynamic flow of the album. If every song had the energy, honesty and originality of Lock Me Up this review would have been nothing but praise, but unfortunately a handful of uninspired tracks drag down Mack of the Year like Paris Hilton giving Oprah a piggyback ride. Despite all the criticism, after all I am a critic, I sincerely hope that in a year I’m writing about a young man who found his fortune, fame and own completely unique voice. Stay tuned as we watch and see if Trel can Mack originality as hard as he does the ladies.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 01/3/08
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First DJ Booth Appearance:
"Autograph ft. Crystyle" (2007)
Total DJ Booth Features:
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