Edo. G featuring Pete Rock: My Own Worst Enemy
With the release of My Own Worst Enemy, Edo. G rolls off the assembly line as music's next best thing, a "throwback from the '90s". As if the mere mention of golden era hip-hop could simultaneously rouse a legion of old-school fans and still resonate with today's generation. Rap has always been about right now. No matter how much people pine for the good ole days, they want the future. Even when rappers excavated their own history to sample from the past, they gave it urgency. They reclaimed history in a way that said, "Hey, I'm the modern poet; part artist/part historian. I made the old new again, now pay attention." With Pete Rock piloting the helm for seven of the 10 tracks, Edo. G (Edward Anderson) obsesses about the past and some of the rhymes sound aged past perfection, which begs the question, "Edo. G, what have you done for me lately?"
Edo. G isn't a throwback rapper; he's a comeback rapper from the throwback days. Alongside his crew Da Bulldogs, he was spitting lyrics back when 50 cents was just a nickel. He says so on the lead off track, an ode to the mean streets of Boston ("Boston"). He describes his breezy, conversational flow as "wholesome and controversial", which is pretty inaccurate. If he's controversial, Niggaz Wit Attitude is intellectually stimulating dinner party music. Over Pete Rock's introspective production, Edo. G prefers the role of rap educator to one of violent demagogue. On "School'em", he raps, "Stop writing rhymes; start writing essays/ Cuz long gone are your best days/ We count our blessed days/ We look ahead to them next days." If it comes off corny it's because it is. In comparison to the phalanx of complicated narratives woven by today's emcees, this is at best a nursery rhyme -- but if anything, hip-hop needs more artists whose lyrics can lull ghetto children to sleep with a positive message.
Edo. G has a dream. "Wishing", a track produced by Insight, features the newly retired Masta Ace and throws listeners back to the '60s, at a time when America sweltered in the heat of oppression. It's a stirring song for, about, and by dreamers. By sampling Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech, the track unearths an emotionally-packed Kodak moment teeming with tension. But instead of delivering a performance to at least rival King, Edo's rhymes prove seriously deficient in the presence of the Southern Baptist preacher. It's anti-Bush, pro-black conscious hip-hop, but it sounds monotonous.
Rock's production is nostalgic. His beats invoke memories of youthful exuberance. Always relaxed, almost stoned; the organic jazz vibe produces a mild, yet cerebral high when punctuated with his trademark horns. Overall, it's an auditory treat, reliable production from rap's coming-of-age period. However, if you eliminate the Pete Rock factor, the album loses all potency. Fortunately, that's not the case, which makes his role on this album clear. He's the bait to lure in listeners. Despite his work with industry brands like DJ Premier, Guru, Black Thought, and Hieroglyphics, Edo. G is a no name and nothing about this album does anything to change that. He's just one of a long list of underground rappers whose names you'll never know. Sure, he sounds i-ight, but when was the last time you copped an album from an unknown rapper because you heard he was i-ight. Would his number one single on YO! MTV Raps convince you? What about his Boston Music Awards from the '90s? Refusing to release his grip on rap's golden years, Edo. G fails to update his resume. He captures a notion of the good ole days, but it's not nearly as visceral as work from Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Kanye West, and other modern-day rap archaeologists.
Edo. G can't be right now, because he's trying to be back then. Start-to-finish it's an average album of dope beats and decent rhymes, but the road to commercialism is lined with average albums and average artists who've been paved over by hungrier emcees. Ten years ago, this might have sold well in and around Boston, but even then it's hard to imagine Edo G outshining the MCs whose lyrical bravado and unwavering braggadocio sculpted rap in its infancy. In spite of his wholesome and worthwhile message, he lacks the chutzpah of other conscious emcees determined to tear away from the pack. Hip-hop evolved from its localized surroundings, but the emcees that explode, I mean the ones that really blow up; they transcend their hometowns to appeal to the masses. Now, that's not to say that Edo G doesn't deserve your dollars -- if you're down with rap consciousness, he does -- but this album is to Fourth of July sparklers what Fourth of July sparklers are to cherry bombs.