One of 2010's least likeliest combos delivers an equally surprising collection of gritty, street-oriented bangers.
Hawaiian Snow is perhaps not the least likely collaboration of 2010, but it's certainly one of the most unexpected. Originally planned as a Tony Yayo mixtape with Danny Brown appearances, the two became quick friends in the G-Unit offices and, over a mutual love of marijuana and Lil' B's unconscious ramblings, Hawaiian Snow was born. And while the album peters out towards the end and could certainly receive endless criticism over the similarity of Doe Pesci's beats or the interchangeable nature of Yayo's presence here, for the most part, it's one of the most efficient releases hip-hop's seen this year. You know what you're getting as soon as either of the first two tracks queue up; "Roll Up" is a simplistic ode to the activity of blunting, while "Bags Double Tied" is a starkly dramatic trap house scenario.
Danny Brown is great throughout the LP, comparing his shock value to forks in wall sockets, his boxframe car to Patrick Ewing's fade, his Adderall habit to Flintstone vitamin consumption, and so on. The dude just goes off every time he hops on the mic and shows no signs of lost momentum after the free Hybrid project and his limited guest verses. Everything that comes out of his mouth has an urgency required of the best MCs, but it's his constant creativity that really puts him on that upper level of the best street rappers out right now.
Yayo is a surprise on most of this album, switching from his usually awful and clumsy attempts to be Lloyd Banks' identical backup to a very abstract, darkly smoked out performance. His lyrics are super scattershot, dropping misaligned references as often as possible in a slow, measured drawl that would most certainly be off beat if Doe Pesci's beats were more substantial. But Pesci is definitely from the new school of mixtape producers, all analog synths and airy vibes that put the focus more on atmosphere and attitude than funky, boom bap energy.
The biggest highlights -- "Bags Double Tied", "So High", "On One" and "O.M.G." -- all have a very similar feeling of sitting on a tattered couch in a non-lit room, surrounded by stacks of money, bags of crack and marijuana smoke, consumed by indifference. But the duo does pick up the mood a little bit, particularly on "Trap Ball", a swag anthem with Lil' B that falls just short of realizing its full potential, and "Cyclops", a clever song based on "seeing red beams like Cyclops took his glasses off" if you front on dudes. While that's a chorus, Brown has another great comic book reference earlier in the album when he claims he's "sittin' in the truck, like what's up/With somethin' that could make Tony Starks bankrupt/Pawnin' Iron Man suits for like a hundred bucks".
Overall, Hawaiian Snow is definitely an acquired taste and Tony Yayo is going to refuse to grow on some people, but for me, it has a really nice atmosphere and outside of a stale final stretch, it's been one of my most enjoyed albums/mixtapes since I got a hold of it. Definitely cop it if you want some Mob Deep-type attitude in your hip-hop because it's abundant here.