I’ve written elsewhere that 2000 was home to a lot of classic hip-hop albums…this ain’t one of them. The rapping is solid (except “Conditioner,” where Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Snoop Dogg sound like they can’t locate their microphones through all the marijuana smoke in the studio); check out Nas’ “The blocks is hostile / There’s no pots to piss in, Glocks is spitting / Rocks cooking underground bodies stiffing” or Inspectah Deck’s head-boppin’ flow at the end of “Do You Really (Thang, Thang).” Meanwhile, a lot of people have issues with Ghostface Killah’s crying-flow on “I Can’t Go To Sleep” and “Jah World / Clap” – and I myself admit it’s not something I seek out regularly – but a) it’s appropriate given the subject matter b) he gets more and more unhinged as the Isaac Hayes samples wells and c) at least he’s experimenting and not stagnating into solid-ness like almost everyone else on the album.
So what’s the problem? Well, the songs just aren’t there this time. I find it funny that a lot of people pick on “Gravel Pit”’s mainstream pandering when they have to subject themselves to the awful “BANG BANG” repetition of “Careful (Click, Click).” Meanwhile, Isaac Hayes acts the wise elder as the choruses of “I Can’t Go To Sleep,” but I get the feeling the song would have been better off without him. Elsewhere, you’ve got the dated squawk-beat of “Protect Ya Neck (The Jump Off)” and the cartoonish “One Blood Under W” that samples the James Bond theme that just sounds misplaced on a serious album. Some highlights in the beats: the sharp guitar chords throughout “Hollow Bones”; the bass line in “Protect Ya Neck (The Jump Off)”; the thumping cadences in the otherwise weak “The Monument”; whenever RZA fucks with the beat at the end of every verse in “Redbull” to imitate machine gunfire. (Though on that note, I can’t believe they stooped so low to insert a fart noise to Method Man’s “In a room full of crackers I might cut the cheese”; predates Eminem’s Encore by four years).
And it only got worse from here.