[10 January 2011]
The thing with Redman is, he’s still a perfectly acceptable rapper. His flow is tight and correct. His lyrics are humorous and relatable. Redman, though, isn’t a name that comes with the expectations of mere decency. He’s the guy that entered the game with one of the best three album stretches period. So when he says, “You can heehee / But I’mma hawhaw / Next to Lady Gaga in the iPod”, it’s reasonably delivered. It’s just that this isn’t some kid you know trying to get his start at open mic night at the Hideout. This is Redman. And despite ten years of evidence to the opposite, rap fans still expect from Redman a certain level of quality we’re almost certainly guaranteed not to get. Reggie will endear itself a little over multiple listens, especially to those of us who are eager to enjoy something new from Redman. But it’s near impossible for it to ever escape the shadows of basic expectations.
Also working against Redman here is his propensity for Auto-Tuned hooks. I think we’re beyond the discussion in hip-hop over whether Auto-Tune is a worthwhile diversion—at this point, it’s too ubiquitous to be so smug as to dismiss it. But I do believe it’s still very much worth discussing from artist to artist whether they sound good accompanied by Auto-Tune. Some rappers, frankly, just sound silly next to it. T.I. constantly flips from one side to the other, Gorilla Zoe and Lil’ Wayne usually sound natural with it, T-Pain of course…Nas? Redman? God forbid, Biggie Smalls? They just don’t. It’s not just the history, it’s the voice and the character. They don’t sound like artists that represent this sort of musical philosophy. It feels like a culture separate to their own tacked on for the sake of commerce.
That’s fine, I suppose. There was nary a moment in Redman’s career spent outside of the limelight. He’s been a major label artist for most of his career, so it’s not surprising that as his back catalog has grown to speak for itself quite eloquently, his modern solo work has sagged into a pattern of emotionless anti-aggrandizement. His body of work balloons, but fans will still request and hope for only the hits, only the songs that prove Redman is something other than a guy who’s talented enough to sound reasonably invested in what amounts to a Sunday morning walk around the block with a Yorkshire Terrier.
Reggie is without a doubt Redman’s worst solo album to date not necessarily because Redman has gotten worse as a rapper, but because he is almost non-existent as an artist. I have no interest in warning anyone about this album’s positive qualities, because they are so type-neutral. So are the negatives. Reggie is one of those veteran albums that could just as well not exist and no one would bat an eye.