[7 August 2007]
Georgia hip-hop trio the Shop Boyz (Demetrius “Meany” Hardin, Richard “Fat” Stephens, and Rasheed “Sheed” Hightower) have already scored a hit with “Party Like a Rock Star”, a crunk rock single embellished by its mildly slashing guitar, trance-like chant, and references to Marilyn Manson, Travis Barker, and the Osbournes. But “Party Like a Rock Star” ain’t hard rock; it’s more like rock candy, replete with saccharine-style musings of stage diving, driving hot cars, and being ogled and swarmed by groupies. Rocker stereotypes abound, although a few seem more suited to the category of “Surfer Dewd” than “Guitar Hero” (“T-t-t totally dude”). At the same time, the set excludes rock music’s wailing angst and any aspirations of sticking it to “the Man”.
Rockstar Mentality is, like, totally gnarly—once you accept it for the joyride that it is. If you can do that, you’re left with songs that are slightly more comfortable in their rock nods than some previous hip-hop attempts—smoother than Diddy’s much-maligned “Come With Me”, even while “getting the Led out” with Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page; more completely constructed and straightforward, though certainly not more artistic or innovative, than Mos Def’s Black Jack Johnson pieces on The New Danger; less awkward than Ice Cube’s Korn-toting meltdown “F*ck Dying”, but also nowhere near as hardcore. However, they aren’t as slick with it as Tone Loc was on Loc’d After Dark, taking guitar samples and phat beats to the mainstream with “Wild Thing”, “Funky Cold Medina”, “On Fire”, and “Don’t Get Close”. These days, Seattle, Washington’s The Saturday Knights provide a more proficient blend of rhyme and rock than what you’ll hear on Rockstar Mentality.
Rock-infused rap invites discussion of Run DMC’s groundbreaking works (“Raisin’ Hell” and the Aerosmith-approved cover of “Walk This Way” are examples). But Rockstar Mentality isn’t descended from Run DMC, flavored as it is with ‘hood-claiming repetition (“Bowen Homes”), a delightfully bizarre run at the Beach Boys (“Rollin’”), and a couple of sing-songy tunes (“They Like Me”, “Next to Me”). What the Shop Boyz do have is a genuine love for a sweet ride (“My Car”), which is so rock ‘n’ roll, and the sound of real guitars, not samples. Billy Hume, Frank Romano, and Mike Harnett bring the noise throughout, especially Hume’s shredding on “World on Fire”.
While the “rockstar mentality” angle distinguishes the Shop Boyz from their peers in the South, they are at their most enjoyable when they’re not trying so hard to talk “rawk” (title track, “Totally Dude”, but please note how kick-ass the violin is in the latter). In fact, one of the standouts is “Next to Me”, dedicated to the ultra-supportive woman who understands what makes her man tick… and what ticks him off. Now, if only we (men) could return the favor!
Whether all this rock stuff is novelty or not, time will tell, as we can rest assured that the monstrous popularity of “Party Like a Rockstar” will likely follow the crew henceforth. That’s the nature of the business. The real question is: what will happen in the aftermath, when the lime-lit guitar solos have come to an end and nobody wants to be there to catch you when you stage dive? For now, it is what it is. Bang your heads to the rad tracks and party on, Wayne! Party on, Garth!