There aren’t too many times in music when one plus one is greater than two. It happens on those rare occasions when two people’s combined talents make an album that is better than anything they could have individually put out. Think Miles and Coltrane, Muddy Waters and Dizzy Gillespie, Jimmy Page and the Black Crowes (ok, those are a few of the ones I have – I am sure there are more).
I bring this up because in the last year, two of my favorite rap duos have put out albums. Heltah Skeltah (Rock and Ruck) reunited to release “Da Incredible Rap Team”, their first album in 10 years, and Redman and Method Man released “Blackout! 2″, their follow up to their 1998 Blackout!.
D.I.R.T. was one of my favorite albums of 2008. As I said in my review:
“Old-school, grimy hip-hop. Very New York and very lyrics based.”
I wish I could say the same for Blackout! 2. Although others disagree, Blackout! 2 doesn’t come anywhere near the original, nor is it in the same class as the Heltah Skeltah albums.
Don’t get me wrong, the album has its high points (Seriously. One of the best songs is all about smoking weed.) but unfortunately it also has five glaring things wrong with it.
1) Chemistry – For two guys who have been in the game for at least 15 years each and have been working together for the last ten, I thought this project lacked chemistry. It lacked the bouncy cohesiveness seen in the first Blackout and in the Heltah Skeltah albums. There were far too instances of Method Man’s rhymes feeding off Redman or Redman’s lyrics feeding off Method Man. Maybe I was spoiled by Ruck and Rock’s teamwork, but I just couldn’t picture Meth and Red writing lyrics together or bouncing ideas of each other on this album. Their verses sound way too disjointed.
2) Production – The first Blackout! album had 19 songs, nine produced by Erick Sermon, three produced by Redman, two by the RZA, two by Mathematics, and the rest by other producers. There was a certain consistency to the album. On Blackout! 2 the consistency is gone. Thirteen different producers created the album’s 15 songs, and only two producers (Erick Sermon and Rockwilder) are credited with more than one song. And the RZA is surprisingly absent.
The idea of multiple producers wouldn’t be so bad if they all had similar visions. Unfortunately, that is not the case. There are far too many wanna-be club hits, too many “southern” beats, and too many songs that don’t seem to fit Redman and Method Man’s rhyming style. Too many of the beats overpower the rhymes, drowning out two of best lyricists in hip-hop.
3) Auto-tune – This kinda falls under “Production” but I wanted to make its own topic. I hate auto-tune. It is the worst thing to happen to rap. Too many producers and artists rely on it and use it to create garbage-sounding vocal sounds. It’s like a lazy plague on music that just won’t die. Had I known it would rear its ugly head on Blackout! 2 I might have had second thoughts about buying the album.
4) Redman – I hate to say this because I have been a big Redman fan for nearly 15 years, but he has not grown as a lyricist at all. Back in 2001, Rolling Stone called Redman “music to watch Jackass to“, and sadly that is still the case today. Red is like that family member who still talks about sneaking out to get beer in his 40s. Maybe I have outgrown Redman, but when Q-Tip, the aforementioned Heltah Skeltah, and even Method Man are writing rhymes that sound like they were written by someone over the age of 12, it might be time for Redman to grow up.
5) Length – Blackout! 2 is too damn long. It is 15 songs and two skits. First of all, skits suck. Unfortunately, they are a Redman staple (see 4). Had the production all been done by one producer (perhaps Erick Sermon?), it would probably be shorter. As it was, they tried to cram too much by too many people on to one album.
Although I might seem down on Blackout! 2, it is not a horrible album. Not at all. But it definitely is not as good as it should have been. I expected more from two of my favorite rappers. Unfortunately, for Blackout! 2, one plus one doesn’t quite equal two.