"Dedicated To The Winners & The Losers..." - Raekwon

Thursday, March 26, 2009

How To Be A Complete Artistic Cipher On Your Own Album - Jim Jones - Pray IV Reign: Review

"Shockingly, this record did not want to make me join a cult and drink cyanide-laced Kool-aid!"

On “Pop Champagne”, Rob Browz spends the first 1 minute and 10 seconds of the song crooning and auto-tuning the track into a high fever pitch crescendo before taking the song to the verge of Timbaland-level hip pop transcendence... and then Jim Jones’ voice ignominiously appears over the beat and it all comes to a sudden, crashing halt. It’s a testament to Browz’ ability as a producer and Juelz Santana’s deliriously charming stupidity that “Pop Champagne” turns out to be a fairly fun, goofy little track in spite of Jones’ inherent weed carrying wackness sucking out all of the first minute of the song’s goofy, auto-tuned transcendence. It’s a song that manages to work despite the apparent artist’s complete non-contribution to the proceedings. IfJim Jones were to pull a DJ Khaled on the track and simply add his name while screaming all over the intro, this song would undoubtedly be a much better song. If we extrapolate this lesson we have learned from this song and apply it to Jim Jones’ new album, “Pray IV Reign”, you have a pretty good idea about the quality of the album. To be overt, “Pray IV Reign” is pretty good but it has absolutely nothing to do with Jim Jones. He actively does his best to make a pretty, immaculately produced album suck.

Jim Jones should not have a rap career. It’s a force of fate that Joseph Guillermo Jones happened to use to sell weed to Cameron Giles in the tenth grade (One would assume...) and because of this, Jim Jones has managed to weasel his way into a fairly, succesful musical career. Jim Jones is a terrible rapper and not in the sense that Melachi The Nutcracker is a terrible rapper. Melachi The Nutcracker is a terrible rapper because he’s not very good at the actual act of rapping and thus, his music is inherently limited. Jim Jones can’t rap very well either but Jim Jones is a terrible rapper because he‘s never met a cliche that he didn’t want to make sweet passionate love to. Jim Jones has never had an original idea in his life and every single song on “Pray IV Reign” is naked bite of songs that have long moved into the dreaded cliche zone. In some sense, he’s the spiritual child of The Game and Young Jeezy combining their worst, most ingratiating traits (with none of their charm and/or talent) into one Uber-Wack Rapper of Suck.

In some sense, Jim Jones is a metaphor for everything that is wrong with the modern rap music industry. In the Golden-era of Hip Hop, rap music was, more or less, a meritocracy. If you were dope, you got put on and you sold records. That’s how it worked. These days, all that is required to be a rapper is to be childhood friends of an already famous rapper and with minimal qualification and/or talent, you can parlay your relationship into a “successful” rap career. Now, originally, this isn’t necessarily a bad idea as the massive success of the Wu-Tang Clan and it’s ever-expanding collective have proven but over the years as standards and taste declined amongst rap fans, more and more, people began to think it was acceptable to let your personal chef spit a verse on your album; thus contributing to a spiral of wacker and wacker weed carriers getting record deals. Jim Jones is the logical extension of that mentality. A man with no discernible talent except for wanton self-promotion gets to become one of the biggest rap stars on the planet simply because he had a childhood friendship with Cam’ron. He’s literally an artistic cipher on his own record album but nevertheless, people love him (or tolerate him at minimum).

Which brings us back to “Pray IV Reign”, an album that works despite the artistic additions of it’s ostensible creator. The music is immaculately produced, the virtual unending parade of guest artists are unquestionably the highlights, and the MVP of the record, producer/singer Rob Browz, can be best described as a bootleg T-Pain. It’s an album that should fail in spectacular (and hilarious) fashion but it doesn’t seemingly in spite of its’ creator’s best efforts. The only thing that I can attribute to the record’s success is Dame Dash’s efforts as an executive producer on this record. Dame Dash, for all his legendary douchebaggery, is a man that simply knows how to put together a great record. He’s helped Cam’ron shape himself from fledgling Big L clone to a cult hip hop icon, discovered Kanye West, and it should come to no surprise (but will to those who worship Shawn Carter’s testicles) that Jay-Z hasn’t made a great album or even any transcendent singles since Dame Dash left Rocafella Records in the wake of their massive pissing contest somewhere around the year 2005. Dame Dash’s presence as an executive producer no doubt influenced Jim Jones’ decision on the record to eschew the tried and true Dipset formula of his early, shittier records and go for a more pop, club-friendly auto-tuned R&B filled affair. This decision is ultimately why the record works. The record is loaded with R&B singers carrying the hooks, and the production is carried by producers who primarily work with R&B singers like Ryan Leslie, Chink Santana, Polow Da Don and even Babyface (?!?!?!) shows up to co-produce a track. By keeping it a more R&B affair, it keeps Jim Jones rapping at such a minimum that he sounds like the guest rapper on his own songs. This is absolutely not a bad thing when Jim Jones is the rapper of concern. “Pray IV Reign” is the record that Ja Rule would kill to make these days.

Now here is the twist. Even though, “Pray IV Reign” is a ostensibly a good album, this is not a record that I actually would want to listen to. This seems like it would be a contradiction (and it is...) but that’s only because I dislike most modern R&B. I have long been a cynic when it comes to the T-Pain World Order of auto-tuned R&B that dominates urban radio (and it makes such a black hole of despair that I actively listen to NPR if I’m forced to listen to it in my car). This record fits in with that category and even though, it’s not my style to listen to these record I can’t deny that this is undeniably well-executed. It would unfair of me to say this record sucks because it doesn’t but if you don’t like this type of music, you will hate this record with a fiery passion because it offers nothing else other than soulless hip pop music and Jim Jones is a not talented enough artist that he can make up for that with his lyrical insights. I thus find myself in the uncompromising position of recommending an album, I don’t actually want to listen to. You win, Jimmy. I concede.


Marcus said...

Its pretty meh. As a former hardcore Dipset fan, I will stand by my opinion that Jones used to be a true beast. His verses on Come Home With Me and Diplomatic Immunity are verrrrry hard (no homo).

The pop shit sucks, the "Deep shit" is great.

Natan said...

LOL, i just love reading your reviews man... that's the best description of Jim Jones i've ever read. keep up the good work Doc.

bding7 said...

that's a really interesting point about dame dash. to add to it, think about the Roc-a-Fella albums executive produced by the "Carter Administration" (wow). besides Free at Last, which is due to Philly Freezer working w/o most of the dudes from the Roc, they're all mediocre albums at best.

come to think of it, did President Carter executive produce any non-Roc albums for Def Jam?

Badmon3333 said...

I'm feeling your stance on the current modern R&B sound: it couldn't possibly sound more the same from song to song.

In fact, the only two R&B albums I've got from the past year are probably Raphael Saadiq (which couldn't possibly sound more different) and Beyonce (and really, I'm only feelin' the Sasha Fierce half of that album, and then, only just a little).

On the hip-hop bright side, the new Blame One ('Days Chasing Days') is NICE. And the new Doom would be pretty nice, too, if he hadn't recycled three of his own beats and like a half-dozen of Dilla's.

Jay (d)eff Kay said...

ayo doc, whats up with the extra-smedium font? *Zoolander voice * WHAT IS THIS? AN ARTICLE FOR ANTS?

Anyways, I'm guessing you're right abt the album. Don't know how in this recession, Jim of all people landed that sweet 50/50 deal. But I assumed his new found clout would help make the album tolerable.

And I've always been a Dame Dash supporter but I dunno abt "He’s helped Cam’ron shape himself from fledgling Big L clone to a cult hip hop icon" IMHO, Cam's cult status has everything to do with his evolution into bizarro lyricist, and people jumping on his eccentric bandwagon for both reasons wrong and right. I can understand if you're implying that Dame helped him gain industry access business-wise so that he could do his thing, but the idea of Dame being the architect of his Cam's artistic leap is kinda hearsay.

Also, with artists like The-Dream, Ryan Leslie, Timbo circa now, and even T-Pain on a good day, modern R&B often seems more interesting than whatever new movements are taking place in rap these days.

I'm assuming you've got a UGK review up your sleeve to wash Jim Jones' (pause) out your mouth?

DocZeus said...

The extra medium font is due to Blogger refusing to format the post correctly. It decided that I wanted small print and it wasn't listening to my arguments to the contrary.

Anonymous said...

Funny! Love your writing style.

Anonymous said...