Cam'ron's new protegé, Vado, caps his big mixtape year with a debut album that exudes class-era Dipset smugness.
Like fellow Internet-era rapper Waka Flocka Flame, the rise of Vado came swift and efficient. Plenty of rappers spend years flailing their arms on the mixtape circuit, casting out single after single in the hopes of convincing their superiors there's money to be made on them. But both Slime Flu and Flockaveli represent something of a new ideal for rising rap stars, as Vado and Waka Flocka Flame were able to parlay mixtape projects into nationally distributed physical product. Both artists also represent very specific prototypes of MCs -- Vado is an extremely strict adherent to the pathos that fueled Dipset's Y2K heyday. Full of strictly casual aggression and word play that sometimes catches itself more interested in syllable-bouncing execution than coherency. But his essence is not far removed at all from Cam'ron's former young gun, Juelz Santana, a key difference probably being Vado's apparent disinterest in teasing towards the mainstream. Vado is also more economical with his lyrics, making sure not to ever roll off the rails into total nonsense for a bar.
Unfortunately, Slime Flu has a limited amount of use, because it lacks any real sense of humor, and you can tell a lot of the production is mixtape material. The production is reminiscent of what the guys at Real Talk Entertainment do. There are some exceptions, like the fantastic opener "Council Music" by Bink!, and Fever Beats' two contributions, "Celebration" and "The U.N.", but tracks like "Crimesquare", "Polo", and "Rugby Down" have about as much character as something on 50 Cent's past two albums. There are a lot of dark, underground club beats on here too, like "Rugby Down", "Beat Knockin'", "Polo", and the two Cam'ron collaborations at the end.
Personally, I think he sounds better on the more spacious soul sample productions and "Snapped", a spacious piano ballad topped with Vado's female troubles and a drug tale. "Filthy Game" opens with similar potential, but quickly proves to be more Detroit circa-2001 than Memphis circa-1998. Jae Millz also makes an appearance in what is best appreciated as a nod to the neighborhood superstars of Vado's era, since Millz continues to prove the Young Money lifestyle has sapped most of his originality. Or perhaps, like most rappers from his era not named Fabolous, Millz has simply run out of things to say.
Slime Flu is ultimately an album for unabashed consumers of all things early-2000s NYC rap. Vado's performance is fleet and tight, clocking in at a little under an hour. The lack of features until the album's second-wind is a strong bit of sequencing, giving listeners who've missed his Gangsta Grillz series alongside Cam'ron's ample material a chance to learn what Vado is as an MC. Cam's features are the only ones that add anything valuable, but Gruff and Meek Mills don't subtract either. The scope of the album is intensely narrow, and it's really one of the only rap records in 2010 in which flow and delivery is the main appeal for me. In a production-centric era, it's the listener's awed by Vado's cadence that will be coming back to Slime Flu again and again. For everyone else, there's a Busta Rhymes impersonation by Cam'ron on the album-closing "Speaking in Tungs" that absolutely should be heard, and there's more than enough material to get Vado on your "must watch" list at the very least. Vado introduces himself on "Council Music": "black glove with that OJ swag". After Slime Flu, it seems safe to say we'll be hearing quite a lot from Vado over the next few years.