“Don’t try to blame me dude / I put crazy glue in your baby’s food / Curse and damn your fam / I’m in a crazy mood.” So says Tame One, former member (with El Da Sensei) of the ‘90s rap duo the Artifacts, on the opener “Holla Real Y’all”. As witty as he is silly, as clever as he is irreverent, it’s tough to decide if he’s serious or if the music of The Grudge: Fuck the Industry is merely a 42-minute workout for Tame One to flex his lyrical muscles. The man’s wordplay is superb, but his fast and loose way about his business undermines much of the set’s focus.
It is, however, a “mixtape”, which explains why The Grudge sounds like a set of freestyles modeled after Redman’s Dare Iz a Darkside (1994). That puts things in perspective since Tame One hails from New Jersey (like Redman does) and there’s an appearance from Redman and Rah Digga on the Hot 97 broadcast that closes the CD. The Grudge is a trippy ride teetering from soft horns and delicate drum programming (“Holla Real Y’all”) to hard and heavy backdrops (“Fun 101”, “Yes Yes Y’all”). We could quibble over the production—some overpowering keys in “Brick Sh*t”, a bit of monotony in the eight minute freestyle jam—but there’s no argument that the effort revolves around the style necessary to carry off Tame One’s rowdy imagery and wordplay.
It’s all in the attitude, the swagger and strut of Tame One’s performances. At times, even the meanings of the words themselves seem insignificant. Take “No Hooks”, in which Tame One declares he’s “got a mean jab” but he “ain’t got no hook”. The irony is that, through this nihilistic lens, he in fact creates his hook in the same breath that he’s declaring he doesn’t have one (“‘Cause ain’t no such thing as halfway hooks”). And there’s nothing safe about incorporating the Gilligan’s Island theme as the chorus of “Da Ol’ Jersey Bastard”. Totally, and almost addictively, strange. Unfortunately, the lyrical twists struggle to tie the mix together and, inevitably, the collection suffers. As a result, The Grudge is a decent overview of the delightful havoc Tame One can wreak, but is ultimately unfulfilling compared to his output with the Artifacts and his previous solo outings.