By (mostly) turning their backs on the sound they themselves pioneered, Main Attrakionz' first album for a label is disappointingly indistinguishable from the rest of Oakland's independent scene.
As much as anyone else, Main Attrakionz have been responsible for much of the groundwork that's established the basic tropes and expectations of "cloud rap". While Lil' B's YouTube trolling and some of A$AP Rocky's LiveLoveA$AP have probably been the most visible examples of the form, last year's 808s & Dark Grapes II was and might always be the genre's Nevermind, that sort of a-ha moment that makes the whole thing seem viable and vital. Maybe it's the fact that most of their solo and group mixtapes play around with the same style and they're bored, or just the influence of finally recording an album within the confines of a label, but Bossalinis & Fooliyones not only rejects a lot of what made the group interesting in the past, it casts them in a role that threatens to expose a lot of their flaws as performers. For whatever reason, this album is largely indistinguishable from the middle-of-the-road stuff another Bay Area label, Livewire, churns out every couple months or so.
That means that the production is a lot safer than it has been in the past, for starters. That's not to say it's poorly done -- both "Cloud Life" and "On Tour" are guitar and 808-led slow jams that'll have you reaching for the volume knob -- but with safer comes expectations that the raps will satisfy. I've always been a fan of how Squadda B and MondreM.A.N. approach the art of rhyme, but by putting them in this more generic environment their strengths and weaknesses are amplified big time. Take, for example, the verse that ends "Sex in the City". The way we're used to hearing these guys one might not even feel compelled to take it as a verse, but rather a blunted ramble because the guys are having a great time in the studio. But with cleaner, more typical composition comes a certain lack of playfulness that just doesn't do these two any favors. It definitely doesn't help that a lot of these hooks are delivered in the sing song drawl that we're used to hearing washed out in synth waves and hazy samples of Japanese pop. Out in the wild, it can quickly become grating.
There is this section in the middle that really gives the album a kick in the ass and helps lift it from being purely average, though. Unsurprisingly the production is from outside the bay, as a pair of Harry Fraud tracks sandwich one of the weirder Zaytoven tracks in a while. And you just know Zaytoven had to bring Gucci Mane along for the ride, whose comedic menace persona lends a refreshing sense of something new to the album that seems to reinvigorate the stars of the show as well. Squadda raps like he's a laid back Waka Flocka. Seemingly aware that "Superstitious" is the album's high water mark, it's stretched out into the album's second-longest track by an extended repetition of Gucci's chorus that sort of puts a drag on things. And that sort of works as a metaphor for Bossalinis & Fooliyones as a whole. Despite being titled with words that come from Main Attrakionz' unique and original world view, it's the first time we see the guys trying to fit in with everyone else making music in Oakland. And the lesson learned?
They can hang, but at the price of their individuality and the unique things that made them attractive in the first place. Bossalinis & Fooliyones is a perfectly plain little rap album, one that's 70 minutes long for no real good reason and comes and goes with little remarkable occurring either good or bad. I hate to say it, but I'm just not sure who this album is intended for, since it basically sounds like a Jacka album covered by a couple of kids. Here's hoping they've gotten this out of their system and can get back to the fringes, where they felt like pioneers. There's a reason "Love Is Life", even more than the detour in the middle of the album, is the biggest takeaway from this experiment. It's the one thing that sounds like what Main Attrakionz were mastering before, with a spacey beat that finds the guys' songwriting floating in and out of it, dropping goofy aspirationals like "walk before you crawl, talk after you listen" that find a way to sound useful in this context. That the last four songs of this album mostly follow the pair's old template makes them essentially feel like bonus tracks, but not just that - what the album probably should have been in the first place.