[26 October 2009]
While initially an intriguing and fun concept, rapper/producer CookBook’s (a.k.a Jason Soto) efforts come up short on his solo disc, I Love the ‘80s. CookBook’s old-school production values run rampant with Casio keyboards and electronic beats, offering a welcome, throwback feel to the project, as do his lyrical nods to major figures and events of the ‘80s. Weaving in references to current events help keep things contemporary as well. A member of the Christian hip-hop group, L.A. Symphony, CookBook’s moral roots show on “Inner Space”, a commentary on the decline of societal values that nicks the melody of the Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”, while “What’s Happening Now” stands as a hip-hop fan’s State of the Union address.
In spite of its positive attributes, the negatives on I Love the ‘80s are numerous. CookBook’s vocals are rather weak, almost amateurish, and there’s more talking than actually rapping with any sort of cadence (most evident on “Molly Ringwald”, a track that certainly wouldn’t find its way onto one of Duckie’s mixtapes). Another major infraction committed throughout is oversampling. Forget about self-penned refrains on several of the songs. Large chunks of ‘80s originals are plunked down in between the verses, used and abused as prepackaged choruses for the songs sans any sort of remixing or blending. Although relevant to the album’s theme, these examples are where CookBook displays a lack of skill or creativity, building a song around a single relic rather than incorporating multiple, artfully interwoven samples to create something fresh.