A new teacher is in town, and class is in session. Beeda Weeda is leaving the confines of his home in Oakland and stepping into the national spotlight. The title of Beeda’s debut album, Turfology 101 shows that the MC / producer intends to share a lesson with listeners. He touches on a number of standard rap themes, including violence, sex, and street credibility, but the impression he leaves on listeners has nothing to do with these topics. Inadvertently, he has laid the blueprint for how to make a disappointing rap album.
In order for listeners to be disappointed with an album, they must first have a reason to be excited about its release. Turfology‘s setting is one reason why listeners might be interested in the album: Beeda Weeda hails from the Murder Dubs neighborhood in Oakland, California. Besides being notorious for its violence and crime, this neighborhood is not very well represented on hip-hop recordings. However, instead of stepping up and placing his home on the musical map with a distinctive album, Beeda has made a record that sounds too much like all the clichéd gangsta rap that already exists.
A disappointing rap album must have mediocre or poor lyrics, and Turfology definitely fulfills this requirement. Lyrical insensitivity abounds, beginning with the first track, when Beeda starts to list the rules of “turfology” by saying, “Number one rule: no snitching, / Snitching is like pork to a Muslim, / We love it but we will do without it”. Sadly, this quote contains one of the best similes on the entire album. For the most part, Beeda confines himself to the traditional clichés of gangsta rap. Mentions of “hustlers” and “thugs” on the track “Be Like Us” are all too familiar, as is the cry of “Fuck the police!” on “We Ain’t Listenin’”. Redeeming social commentary or intelligent analysis is glaringly absent from the album. Instead, Beeda seems content spending most of his time boasting about how tough he is.
Unspectacular production is another feature of disappointing rap albums. Overall, the production on Turfology is so straightforward that it borders on bland. The drums sound thin, and the bass, if it enters at all, is too quiet. Perhaps the weakest parts of the production, though, are the strange sound effects that continually surface. On the title track, listeners hear the sounds of a gun being cocked and firing. On an album by a rapper like Ghostface, such samples can be chilling. On Turfology, where they sound like effects on a Casio keyboard, they are less effective. Even more annoying is the sound of a meowing cat that occurs whenever a rapper mentions female anatomy. This is effect is only mildly amusing the first time it happens, and quickly becomes obnoxious.
Although his album is disappointing, Beeda Weeda is not without his strengths as a rapper. He might not write great lyrics, but he delivers his lines with confidence, swagger, and a sharp attack. His driving flow suits most of the songs well. Not every track is bad; in fact, “Turf’s Up”, with its catchy synth sample, and “Soldier”, a slower track with R&B touches, could probably be radio hits.
Unfortunately, could-be radio hits are not enough to establish an up-and-coming rapper as a serious musical artist. As hip-hop continues to flourish, more and more people are entering the game with intelligent rhymes and top-notch production. Beeda Weeda has neither. As his proud boasts about his connection to the hip-hop scene in Oakland and his insistence on recording on an independent label prove, Beeda is earnestly trying to establish himself as a unique musical voice. Unfortunately, he compromises this effort when he relies so heavily on such tired gangster clichés. Beeda doesn’t have any less to say than most of the rappers who are so successful on radio and MTV. What he lacks, however, is a brilliant producer who can compensate for his lack of substantive content. Turfology is really not a bad album, but listeners will have a hard time shaking the feeling that it should have, and could have, been so much better.