New Orleans rapper/producer Corey Miller (aka C-Murder) knows the hard reality of living in the Crescent City’s Calliope projects. I just wish he would do a better job of telling how and why his heart bleeds for his city on his third album, Screamin’ 4 Vengeance. Like fellow southern rap kingpin T.I., the release of Miller’s album also runs parallel to an impending prison sentence that began this fall. In 2003, Miller was charged with second-degree murder for a shooting that occurred at New Orleans nightclub and has been on house arrest ever since.
Knowing that Miller also became an author last year, with the release of the urban novel Death Around the Corner, I gave Miller the benefit of the doubt this time around, expecting him to mature lyrically. I listened hard and close to Screamin’ 4 Vengeance hoping to find verses that lament or express his feelings about the details surrounding his court case, or the tragic state of recovery in New Orleans. But I came up short on evidence that Miller has evolved, which left me feeling disappointed.
On intro track “Ganstafied Lyrics”, Miller expresses his disdain for fake rappers and wrestles with conflicting beliefs about the death of close friends. The verses make you think that Miller has his sights set on higher ground, but unfortunately the rest of the album quickly regresses into gangsta clichés and street thug pandering. Towards the end, among a mêlée of chopped and screwed, vinyl scratches, and clicking electro snares and whistles, Miller growls one of the only straightforward expressions towards his possible future sentence (or current house arrest) on “Beastmode”.
Not even the blazing speed rapping of Bone Thug ‘N Harmony rapper Krayzie Bone on “Posted on Tha Block Remix” can make up for the disjointed and scattered production of Vengeance. The ice cold couplets of “Freeze (Ice Man)” preach the precarious ways of dealing meth, but fail to put my doubts on ice. Dirty South anthem “Down South” rides the slow rotation of a chopped and screwed chorus hook, but really, what does “From the street to the Pen we came here to win / We came here to be paid in big ways” really mean? A pending murder charge for shooting and killing someone at a club doesn’t stop Miller from recording the club banger track “Murdaman Dance”. And you would think that if you’re going to record a track like this, you would at least make it sound good should it be used as evidence against you.
That said, as a producer, Miller sticks to his sonic guns, recycling the chopped and screwed production club anthems that helped bring him to platinum and gold record success with Life or Death (1998) and Bossalinie (1999). As a rapper, Miller tries to channel the swagger of Tupac and Ja Rule’s drawl, but he misses the opportunity to rap poetically about what he sees around him and what may lie ahead—both of which Tupac embraced and did so eloquently without compromising the rawness.
Maybe this album is one of those that will slowly reveal its hidden storylines as Miller’s case unfolds in the coming weeks. And hopefully his career as an author and a rapper will grow into more than just a side story to his murder rap. I just hope that he doesn’t mix up his conviction with his real rapping ability, because I know there are stories to tell about the mean and troubled streets of New Orleans, but for whatever reason he doesn’t want to tell them.