Atlanta’s next big thing may not be another OutKast, but at least they aren’t another Shop Boyz. A thoroughly average duo with big-time backing (Ludacris, their friend, executive producer, collaborator, and labelmate, champions their stuff), Playaz Circle are good enough to stick around for awhile but won’t be changing anyone’s mind about crunk. If you’re in the camp which maintains that southern hip hop is too beat-obsessed these days, and not focused enough on, you know, saying something, you’re not going to be feeling this one. Because the beats, they be HUGE. And the vocals, they be teensey.
Childhood friends Tity Boi and Dolla Boy formed Playaz Circle a decade ago, but have run into problems from the get-go. For starters, Dolla Boy got sent up a few years ago, and Tity Boi got shot. While these hurdles slowed down the release of this, their debut record, it also gave time for the mystique surrounding this supposedly killer duo to swell. And with guest performances here from big-timers Lil Wayne (Okay!) and Ludacris, there were ample grounds to expect something from this outfit. Unfortunately, what we get instead is Supply & Demand, a predictable record full of predictable performances.
You know what these guys want? Money and girls! You know what they got? Money, and girls!
Playaz (which — I am not making this up — stands for Preparing Legal Assets for Years from A-Z) Circle are not here to break new ground. They are here to realize their shared dream of becoming rich and famous. For a band with an acronym for a name (albeit a hugely cumbersome, and slightly parodic one), Playaz Circle don’t seem to relish wordplay. “I got so many bitches, I need another dick!” is the second most memorable eye-raiser on the record, but it’s miles behind “I am on my shit / I need a Pamper on Toilet paper on the side…/ I get money”.
While Tity Boi is a fairly consistent rapper (weird references to his diapers aside), his partner Dolly Boy possesses a flat, forgettable delivery. In fact, apart from Ludacris’ singular, stuttering performance on “U Can Believe It” (by far the best track on the record), there’s not much here that jumps out. “Paper Chaser” explains why loving money is cool (“They say I’m wrong / But don’t blame me / I’m just a paper chaser!”). “Paint Still Wet” (which I don’t think is supposed to be a joke) is amazingly funny (“She don’t wanna freak me / She wanna freak my car!”). And “Outlaw”, among the goofiest songs about thuggery I have ever heard, is so weirdly empty-headed about being a criminal that it’s kind of amazing (“They wanna say that I’m an outlaw / ‘Cause I rob and I steal / ‘Cause I kill and I deal”). Um, yeah. That’s how that works.
But, those beats are something. Dark, powerful, chest-rattling basslines booming under tight, hyper-metallic treble tics. In “Duffle Bag Boy” (the catchy lead single starring Weezy himself (Okay!)) the beats are so good that it wasn’t ‘till the third listen that I realized how forgettable the lyrics were (except for that Pampers bit). And then, on the fourth listen, I just tuned them out again and stuck with that nasal melody line and all that banging crunk. In general, that’s the way to ride this thing. After all, when the best part of your record is a guest spot from your hugely famous executive producer, maybe it’s better to hide behind the beats.