[30 May 2006]
In late 2004, Nelly and Tim McGraw struck radios in a mountainous blitzkrieg with the track “Over and Over”. As incompatible as the track appeared based on artist names alone, it created a hybrid that undoubtedly combined alt-country and hip-hop into a cross-genetic musing of commercial power. The track featured the warbly guitar of Tim McGraw and the crooning whines of Nelly, and as it burgeoned like a viral fungus, it touched on a musical combination yet to be explored.
Taking a cue from these country-hoppers, Slo-Mo, a free-lancing steel guitarist from the land of Philly, got hooked up with local rapper Mic Wrecka and birthed My Buzz Comes Back, an album that struggles to balance two seemingly incompatible genres. Slo-Mo, who has performed with everyone from Magnolia Electric Co. to Marah to Badly Drawn Boy, injects the album with the guises of alt-country, while Mic Wrecka does anything but, well, wreck mics. But the combination, as relaxed and jammy as it was initially intended to be, becomes neutered by its blatant transparency, as if they were trying too hard to parrot what had been the successful root of “Over and Over.”
My Buzz Comes Back is firmly grounded in the grassroots of alt-country, and casually slips into the different costumes of electronic and hip-hop with ease. This laid-back fluidity is the base for the record, but as a result of producing country-hop in such a carefree way, the record is devoid of any spark of musical integrity or originality. Slo-Mo openly derives stylistic elements from the saccharine sounds of Santana to the stone-bouncing grooves of O.A.R., while Mic Wrecka A-B-C rhymes his way through songs resembling the vocal stylings of Method Man and tackling the subjects of touring, Philadelphia, and free-wheeling marijuana use.
The album sets it off with “Everybody Knows”, a pedestrian ode to a woman based on the pump of atmospheric drums and a corny, sliding schmooze guitar. The chorus is smoothed out by one of the three faceless female vocalists that appear throughout the record, tightrope-walking across a melody line that remains wholesomely derivative and trite. The overall musicality of “Everybody Knows” leaves the listener with the expectation that Faith Hill will pop onto it at any moment, due to the fact that Slo-Mo tragically succumbs to what is expected, rather than riffing on the traditional qualities of alt-country form.
Slo-Mo remains entirely devoid of unconventional stylistics on most of the album, as he echoes the neutered fret fancies of Santana on “Say You Are” and the blood-churning Spanish jam “Cuidado”. Slo-Mo even hints at the fact that he may deviate from the alt-country grain, but he casually slips back into the expected. On “Below the City”, the track starts with a farting bass, suggesting that the track will explode into a self-defiant electronic festival. Instead, it falls back into a languid drip, with the slowed ambient drums marching along to an uninteresting harmonica tinkling at the forefront. Sticking to traditional form, Slo-Mo creates a trashy soundscape for the rest of My Buzz Comes Back, leaving the accompanying musicians with little wiggle room to spark the record’s integrity.
As Slo-Mo constricts his fellow musicians, Mic Wrecka is faced with the most difficult challenge on the record that he is far too inexperienced to meet head-on: the need to drag the listener’s attention away from the blasphemous musical backdrop. Wrecka’s rhymes remain haphazard and uninspired throughout the record as he delivers snippets of potentially full-out verses on most of the album’s tracks to make room for Slo-Mo’s jamnastics.
Wrecka’s subjects remain appallingly traditional, capitalizing on his friendship with Mr. Marijuana and flaunting his open wishes to climb the glory ladder of fame. On the guitar ladled “Wonder Why”, Wrecka delivers his mission statement in a disjunctive poetic form: “Destined for stardom / That’s why I write rhymes / Chasing the opportunity of a lifetime / It never knocked, so I had to go seize it / And when I get it I’ll grip it, hold it and squeeze it”. Wrecka’s money-hungry antics lead his raps to the land of banality, a place where thousands of aspiring emcees possess the same ideology, but tend to express it with sharper lyrical gymnastics.
Together, Slo-Mo and Mic Wrecka inevitably fall flat where the commercial potential is teeming. Their chemistry is based on considerably varying intentions, leading them to fail where artists like Nelly and McGraw succeed in collaboration. Each artist is bringing dramatically polar musical styles, both of which are far from astutely fine-tuned. As a result, My Buzz Comes Back becomes a terribly trite and tedious endeavor, making you wish that the record had ended before it had even begun.