Of all the bad hip-hop out there, there's usually none more worthy of scorn than the lukewarm, socially conscious sort championed by latte-swilling anthropology majors in patched corduroys. If you did any time at a fine private liberal arts institution, then you know what I'm talking about. You probably heard it blaring from the smoky confines of chill stoner pads down the hall. After all, who could forget those tiny white-washed bunkers of bliss where rosy-cheeked fraternity brothers might spout watered-down Green Party ire beneath the glow of a neon Pabst sign and dreadlocked debutantes could contrive dance routines to the stalest of grooves? Fortunately, the persistent soundtrack of mellow paeans to love and tolerance, inevitably tempered by insipid jazz rhythms and background coos, never found solace on my discerning turntable. Granted, ever since I watched Naughty by Nature's sumptuous "O.P.P" single-handedly transform an innocuous sixth-grade sock-hop into a festering Gomorrah for pint-sized players, my greatest allegiance has been to the menacing cultural logic of down-and-dirty B-grade club bangers. Clumsy and charmingly unrefined, especially in comparison with the increasingly sleek, futuristic compositions that nowadays mark the work of most thoroughly mainstream performers, these on-the-cheap thug ditties have often proven more adept at getting the party popping than their well-heeled counterparts or neo-hippie opposites.
That being said, I'd still rather play house with the Black-Eyed Peas than spend another minute listening to this dim-witted coaster of an album. Only the most recent dud coughed up by the New Orleans-based Big Tymers, Big Money Heavyweightsounds like yet another unfortunate tumble down the totem pole for Cash Money, that once-mighty record label that, along with No Limit, helped popularize a Tupac-inflected Southern bounce renaissance back in the late 1990s. Featuring the Lilliputian production and rhyming talents of Mannie Fresh and Bryan "Baby" Williams, Big Money Heavyweightsticks to the same musical terrain the group covered on 1999's slightly more palatable I Got That Work.
With very few exceptions, most songs feature thin, recycled beats bearing no resemblance to actual drums, bland keyboard washes, and typically absurd discourse on rolling strippers, smoking the stickiest buds, and sending detractors to the emergency room. Those lyrical themes may be classic, but pulling them off takes panache. When 50 Cent drawls "This flow's been mastered / The ice I flash it, chokes me / I'll have your mama picking out your casket / Bastard" on the album opener of last year's phenomenal Get Rich or Die Tryin', you can tell he's having a good time scaring the daylights out of real and imagined enemies. Fresh, Williams, and their revolving cast of mediocre guest shouters never manage to conjure up a similarly effective spirit of playful dread. Quite the contrary; for evidence, just check out Williams's esoteric boast occurring mid-way through his first verse on "Back Up", one of Big Money Heavyweight's most painful tracks: "I'm the sun, I'm the moon, I'm the Benz, I'm the whips / I'm the crib, I'm the mouse quiet up in this bitch." I've heard foul-mouthed two-year olds spit better game on a pre-school playground. To make matters worse, it's nearly as difficult to take these goofballs seriously as true lady-killers. Even in his self-imposed retirement, Jay-Z might remain the urbane hip-hop "Sinatra of [his] day", but Fresh and Williams can't even compete for the title. After all, the duo see fit to begin their ill-fated opus with a giddy funk-fueled skit about using Janet Jackson's comely face, Beyonce's curvaceous body, and, most curiously, Oprah's brain to build the "the perfect bitch", inevitably coming off, not as legitimate players spinning a yarn for laughs, but as a couple of geeks fantasizing over celebrity pin-ups -- and Oprah.
Ugh. In short, by the time A-list guest star R. Kelly's drippy tenor shows up on "Gangsta Girl", most listeners will be ready to damn this vile record permanently to the darkest recesses of Amoeba bargain bins. Cash Money die-hards might be willing to drop some ducats on it, but that'd be for nostalgia's sake alone. You'll find much better hollering on a Howard Dean crunk remix.