[4 August 2009]
Hip-hop albums handled by a sole producer come along far too rarely these days. Rappers usually just try to fill their records with a who’s-who of hot producers, or they mix some no-names, who are unknown for a reason, with a stable of tried-and-true beatmakers. As a result, the end product can easily suffer greatly. It’s just that a cohesive sound is difficult to achieve with so many varied producers featured on the record.
And, as written, the no-names, who likely get included thanks to being close to the emcee, typically offer up stale beats. And don’t take this as the rant of a bitter hip-hop head, but simply as an unfortunate truth. As such, you can understand the excitement of receiving Roc ‘C’ and IMAKEMADBEATS’s The Transcontinental, which was crafted entirely by the MAD one. Unfortunately, try as he might, this producer’s fine beats aren’t enough to overpower Roc ‘C’‘s sometimes painful and altogether average rapping.
The West Coast emcee, a member of Stones Throw’s underachieving Oxnard crew, is only worth hearing on this album’s standouts, which are at that level thanks to IMAKEMADBEATS’s production. The perfect example of this is the album’s second track, “Still Here”, which flips the same Willie Hutch sample heard on Rhymefest’s “All I Do” off Blue Collar. But MAD’s drums hit a bit harder, and let the sample sound that much fuller. The same goes for the grimy boom-bap of “Blakout” and the soulful cries of “Struggle”. IMMB clearly is a talented man behind the boards. His sample-chopping is well-honed, and he absolutely has a knack for putting together bangers. All of those qualities show that he is fully capable of working with bigger and, most importantly, more talented artists.
And even though Roc makes himself bearable on those aforementioned joints, he and his guests can’t help but take down the rest of the album. The sole exception to that rule is “The Warriors”, which is almost saved by a fine guest verse from Rapper Big Pooh. That track also features a gritty sonic backdrop akin to a late-night walk through the city. But Roc’s laughable “sung” hook—you know, the kind that 50 Cent and Ja Rule made popular five years ago—paired with Chino XL’s awful punchlines ruin the affair. Every other track has almost exactly the same fate. The hooks here are bland, if not downright awful, as are the cliché lyrics and attempts at humor and sounding hard. It truly is the unfortunate truth that most of the Oxnard emcees, and the producers who step in the booth, are hardly worth listening to. Who out of that crew is actually impressive? Oh No is mediocre at best as a rapper, and so is his brother Madlib. But at least they are saved by their talents as producers. The same cannot be said for Roc ‘C’, MED, and the others, who are better off leaving their skilled friends’ beats as instrumentals.
This whole mess of Roc ‘C’ spoiling the beats could have been completely avoided if this had been a strictly instrumental record. If that was the case, The Transcontinental‘s rating would be higher—much higher, to be precise. Unfortunately for this talented producer, his efforts here are bogged down by an emcee who rarely delivers the goods. But let it be known that IMAKEMADBEATS is an artist to watch for. And he plans on dropping a self-titled solo debut relatively soon.