Artist: Funkmaster Flex
Album: The Mix Tape Volume III
Rating: 6 / 10
It’d be an easy life really, being Funkmaster Flex. Let’s face it, the man has very little skills which mark him apart from your average Joe Turntable down the local bus garage/club. But, through many years of perseverance and effort spinning the phattest joints for the Sean John-covered psychos at the Tunnel, he’s now reached megastardom status, the status which seemingly enables him to have all the MCs on the planet on one mixtape. His “Volume III” compilation is no exception – gather round to see thousands of MCs crowding onto Flex’s vinyl, from Mos Def to Mack 10 via Slum Village and Missy Elliott.
Just to make something clear here – most tracks are listed as “freestyles”, but it’s plainly obvious when you listen to some of the shit that it’s written lyrics. I’m disregarding this discrepancy.
Despite the presence of the majority of the upper worldwide MC echelon, the compilation never really gets off the ground. There are way too many mediocre performances, which overshadow the truly good tracks. The album is perhaps unwisely set off by old school muppet Busy Bee, who doesn’t put much effort into his attempt to resurrect the “put your hands in the air like you just don’t care” style. Mack 10 sounds both unsurprisingly and unsatisfyingly Mack 10-ish, and becomes yet another MC who’s used the “Like EF Hutton, when I talk they listen” line. Mind you, for a one-liner, you can never flatline as badly as King Sun does with “my goods be right, I Suge all Knight”. Foxy Brown comes with a whole track full of only her most simplistic lyricism, reinforcing her position alongside Amil and Lil’ Kim as an immovable barracade against the abolishment of hip hop misogyny. Eightball is as equally pathetic as Foxy, in a completely different and less ridiculous way however – he should know that mixing lyrics like “Guillotine lyrics choppin weak emcees heads off” with the most lifeless, pedestrian delivery since Mase overdosed on sedatives is not a recipe for a dope track. That world reknowned hardcore MC, Mariah Carey, floats majestically all over Mobb Deep’s Shook Ones 2 instrumental alongside NY rejects The League, which unsurprisingly leaves the adrenalin desperately inanimate. As do the tracks by Cam’Ron, Missy Elliott and the Refugee Camp crooners, but enough of the downsides – on a track comprising almost the entire East Coast rap community, there’s gotta be some good bits.
First of all, Big Pun pops up not once, but twice. First alongside Noreaga, then with his Terror Squad buddies. On both occasions he rips the track with his phat multi-laden street rhymes, while Fat Joe and Armageddon spit some nice verses too. The old school’s original big bag of fun, Slick Rick, is very funny, while in direct contrast Canibus is chillingly vicious – “For all you niggaz sayin that my shit is sick, just imagine the ninety percent of my brain that I ain’t even used yet.” But who showed all these kids how to be vicious? Back in the day, South Bronx was the place to be, and KRS One was the man you wouldn’t step to. And it remains the same to this day – “Shut that crap up, you gots no backup, you’ll get slapped up, South Bronx holds the map up.” With the names Flex has gathered here, you’re almost guaranteed some ill flow – Common, EPMD, Mobb Deep, Gangstarr, Mos Def, Q-Tip, Keith Murray – these cats don’t let you down that much, but never get anywhere near their best form. And the Flipmode Squad posse jam gives listeners a chance to hear just how enormously garbage the rest of the Squad are compared to Rah Digga and Busta. Shit, even the usually terrible DMX lights up the show on his track with some crazy but controlled flows.
The Wu-Tang are all over the place here. About a quarter of the “freestylers” use Wu beats, and the Clan rap conglomerate get two posse cuts to swing their imaginary swords around. First off, they team up with Killa Sin and also quite possibly the wackest Killa Bees I’ve heard yet, the Harlem Hoodz, over a stripped down beat by the perenially underrated DJ Scratch. Fair enough. Six of the Clansmen spit brief verses on ‘Put Your Hammer Down’, serviced by a throwaway RZA beat – the key element here is that one of the rhyming Wu is GZA, and a new GZA verse is always a special occasion. Even an obvious throwaway is dope – “High ranked officials and armed tanks and missles, blood drizzle simple fact you slept on the issue, that before he started jerkin’ off joysticks and Sega, I made tapes a hundred watt amps insuring Vegas.”
Flex mixes in some truncated classic tracks, including ‘Jump Around’ by House Of Pain. He also cuts up ‘Shimmy Shimmy Ya’ by ODB in a stupid way so the end result sounds like your CD’s been chewed, digested, then passed out by a large animal. Hmmm…
You’ve certainly got variety here. A huge diversity is present and just about any hip hop fan will find someone they’re feelin’ on this compilation, even if the artists don’t exactly put 100% effort into it. So, pick it up if you get the chance, if you see it at a budget price. But don’t go forking out full whack for what is essentially your average mixtape. Dope artists, average mixtape – the key word here is “throwaway”.