When the Pack first emerged with a Too $hort cosign in 2005, it was a group of four high school kids unexpectedly pushing the boundaries of the Bay Area’s then-booming hyphy scene. And in 2006, they burst onto the national scene with a hit single, “Vans”, which established the blueprint for West Coast novelty acts like New Boyz to follow. The Pack’s EP, Skateboards 2 Scrapers, didn’t do much to establish the group as a major player on the rap scene, but backed by the aggressively bass-oriented and futuristic production of Young L, it couldn’t help but catch ears. While none of the rappers—Lil’ B, Lil’ Uno, Young L, and Young $tunna—carried any discernable personality, songs like “Vans”, “I’m Shinin’”, and “Freaky Bopper” became summer hits.
Five years later and plenty of obscure mixtape releases later, the interest surrounding the Pack is notably different. For one, Young L has been easily surpassed as a producer by Droop-E, and much of his current work is a tepid mish-mash of hyphy’s most distinctive traits and, fairly unfortunately, a number of token four-on-the-floor and current club-rap tropes. His production no longer feels distinctive or dangerous; rather, it is mostly trendy and devoid of personality. Most of the excitement over the group now resides in Lil’ B’s Internet spectacle, a two-year long grind of obscure leaks and self-hype that’s pushed Brandon McCartney to the forefront of the “What constitutes hip-hop music?” debate. Unfortunately, for the most part, not even his insanely charismatic personality comes through on Wolfpack Party.
The immediate reaction to this album is that, despite containing an overwhelming 19 tracks, there are only two songs on this CD: the title track and “Bend That Corner”. Every song here follows the formula of “Wolfpack Party”, with heavy doses of Euro synths and ecstasy-fueled MPC detailing. And whether it’s “Red Light”, “Superman”, “One U Need”, or “Make Me Cum”, the subject is always girls. Not only are the hooks often Auto-tuned, but so are many verses on the CD. As a result, one often struggles to tell when anyone is rapping, which, if you’ve followed Lil’ B’s career, you know is no easy task. The group is dedicated to the based style of rap, but where it works with the best of B’s YouTube links, it falls flat here. About half the hooks here feel as though they have no relevance to anything, and many of the verses stumble into the same themes and concepts as songs before them. “Bend That Corner” stands out as the album’s best cut mainly because it features an actual rapper (Husulah) and a beat that reminds folks of the excitement that surrounded Young L’s former style. “Front Back” also finds L in experimental territory, though after he establishes his cool idea, he doesn’t do much with it to keep it fresh.
All that said, it’s hard to say Wolfpack Party doesn’t achieve the goals it laid out. Thanks to their nondescript nature, more than half the tracks here could pop up in the middle of a suburban basement party and few would protest. And the polish to the album obscures the banality of the album’s subject matter, renders the lack of rapper distinction pointless at times, and creates a fairly listenable album. Any focused listen, especially on a good system with bass that overpowers many of the beats’ individual layers, will really kill one’s enjoyment of the album quick, though. As a full front to back listen, while Wolfpack Party might not make your ears bleed, it will definitely have you reaching for the eject button before its runtime—nearly a full 80 minutes—comes close to expired. This album is best digested in small doses, preferably as random filler thrown into a set at whichever club you’re at on Saturdays. It’s a shame how tremendously one-note Wolfpack Party turned out, considering the strong talents and personalities of Lil’ B and Young L. But based on their work the last couple of years, it’s fairly apparent these artists are at their best when they have no explicit vision, no album to complete. If you need some new club beats, Wolfpack Party is serviceable. Otherwise you’re better off entertaining yourself with Lil’ B’s unhinged YouTube masterpieces for two hours. At least that’s free.
- Full album stream MySpace
// Notes from the Road
"Saul Williams played a free, powerful Summerstage show ahead of his appearance at Afropunk this weekend.READ the article