Occasionally an album comes along that makes you wonder how the fuck hip-hop ever crossed over, how something birthed in a neglected, harsh corner of American culture ever became the soundtrack in its most plush lounges. Sean Paul and J Bo are 10 times more confrontational than you'd expect considering their popularity's source in the party-happy crunk style, and Drankin' Patnaz is decidedly not the freewheeling album you'd guess based on everything from the single to the title. Instead, it's grandiose and dark, relentlessly riding southern project clichés, unchecked obscenity, and the hovering threat of violence. Most of it would only qualify as club music for people who see hell around the corner, and only in a nation where black people are idolized in pop based on the exact stereotypes that marginalize them in real life would it make sense that this is a chart hit.
The Lil' Jon-produced "Damn!" isn't as great as "Get Low" and "Salt Shaker", partly because the track isn't as hot. But Jon's beats are like sex and pizza -- even when they're not that great, they're pretty good. The bigger reason is that the YoungBloodZ's lyrics actually name the thing that those other songs subsume, with relative subtlety, in their strip-club enthusiasm -- the ultimate high that comes with the possession of superior force. As with "Get Low", the edited version of "Damn!" is more interesting than the unedited version, as "If you don't give a damn, don't throw it up", has a bit more going on than the dirty alternate, "If you don't give a damn, we don't give a fuck". "Damn!" is different from every other cut on the album (it's the only one Lil' Jon produces); most of the other producers, including principal Mark Twayne, rely on morbid orchestral samples in the place of Lil' Jon's crunchy synths. This thread manages to tie together a record of otherwise pretty dramatic musical diversity.
The best track among much excellence is "Hustle", which has Killer Mike proving, as he did on "The Whole World", that he doesn't need to rely on the boom-bap to bring the pain -- the Track Boyz lay down an insanely swinging song, and Mike weaves his hefty bark in and out of the off-kilter drums like a linebacker dodging tackles as he returns a stray interception. Close behind is "Mud Pit", its precise bass, distorted-as-hell kicks, and skittishly chopped sample evoking UK Garage. "Cadillac Pimpin'" has a falsetto hook and bright horns that hint that the YoungBloodZ have learned a good bit from fellow ATLers Outkast, and "My Automobile" hits the listener with a jazzy, doubletime snare line that's more subtle than it aspires to be. All of the anemic drums, thin synth lines, and crudely grafted choruses we've come to expect from southern rap, the post-sampling sound of authenticity, are well represented here -- like it or not.
The only thing that holds the album back is that Sean Paul and J Bo not only have nothing to say outside of gangsta/party/cash clichés, but they recycle the old shit in a thoroughly pedestrian manner. The most daring they get is a "concept" track called "Tequila" that imagines their favorite liquor as a woman. On a line-by-line level, there's almost nothing that catches the attention here -- no punchlines, wordplay, unique delivery, etc. worth noting. Against the wild, swooping voices of Ying Yang or the good-natured playfulness of the Eastside Boyz, the YoungBloodZ can only hold up their (admittedly substantial) technical precision and persistent mean mugging, a stance that's losing currency faster than electroclash. The YoungBloodZ managed to put together a pretty excellent selection of tracks here, but the tracks themselves end up having a little more personality than the guys rapping on top of them.