REVIEW: Kamal – AKA RJ Block (Re-review)

AKA RJ Block

Artist: Kamal

Album: AKA RJ Block

Label: Dapwati Entertainment

Rating: 0 / 10

Reviewer: Adrunk

*** Note from A to the L: I reviewed this EP by Kamal around September 2001. (Click here for my review.) When I informed Kamal of my review, he disagreed with my score, and so, in the interests of fairness, I decided to pass it to my man Adrunk. Two months on, this is his story…***

An successful MC career, in basic principle, is not entirely different from the successful career of a bus driver. If you knew there was a bus driver lurching dangerously around the streets, ramraiding shops and careering through packed playgrounds, you sure as hell wouldn’t get on his bus. And if you knew of an MC, who was accompanied only by a crumbly drum machine and cheap keyboard, and who stumbled over every word of his flowless, substance-free, soulless rhymes, you wouldn’t buy his records. So, it’s rather puzzling when you come across Rodney “Kamal” Jackson. Kamal is a NY rapper who has recently made inroads on success through favourable outcomes in radio and club airplay. That would all be fine, if he wasn’t also a rapper who manages to rewrite the book of incompetence more convincingly than anyone who has gone before him. When this man sees the limits of just how wack you can be, he confidently runs straight through them, smashing them to smithereens.

The first track of this AKA RJ Block sampler EP (the full LP is available at www.kamal2000.com) is titled ‘Born To Be Large’. With that title, I was expecting Kamal to give me a track about compulsive eating disorders, but alas, he just wants to break out the cheap wine and the Doritos and pretend to a playa. He struts ridiculously over the flat-as-a-pancake cookie cutter beat, spitting miserably weak lyrics like “Getting paid on the regular, chasing dollars like a predator, straight ballin running with the wild bunch, shot callin eating playa haters for lunch.” It makes Lil’ Wayne look like Shakespeare. This “flashin’ my cash” content is just infurating when it’s being spat by some ignorant brat who’s been made obscenely rich through peddling trashy hip-pop to teenagers. When it’s being spat by someone who isn’t rich at all, someone who has to pose in a car showroom to try to look like a playa for his “album cover”, it’s just bewildering. What kind of playa drives a base model Audi A4 for chrissakes? Presumably the more upmarket garages threw him out because he’s dressed like the chimney sweep in “Mary Poppins”.

‘Spanning The Globe’ is practically the same track as ‘Born To Be Large’ except he drops the Tonight-Matthew-I’m-Going-To-Be-Jermaine-Dupri charade and just brags about how great he is. Which is a very bad idea, cause firstly he isn’t great at all, and secondly when he’s not pulling the Cash-Money-without-the-Money-or-the-Cash stunt there’s nothing to laugh at. The lyric delivery is the same – a lifeless, energy-free drone devoid of flow, enthusiasm or style. He persistently stumbles over his lines, sometimes rushing to finish them before the next bar starts. However, the production on ‘Spanning The Globe’ is at least slightly more creative than the rest of this album – a generic guitar sample twists and turns behind the raps.

Kamal can’t resist the ladies. In fact, you get the feeling his rapping facade was created solely to lure in the women. ‘Big Booty Girls’ is perhaps the worst song I have ever heard. The hook would make any hip hop fan wince – “Let it all hang out, big booty girls, you make the rapping world go round” – no they don’t actually, the talented rappers and producers do. As Kamal wrenches out tasteless garbage like “Tight jeans like in my dreams, her skin was busting out through the seams”, his drum machine burbles pathetically behind. Every so often, a tattered scrap of 80s electronica is ripped from nostalgia and thrown over the track with terrible results. ‘Checkin’ You Out’ is on a similar level to ‘Big Booty Girls’, only it’s all about a particular girl Kamal is mackin’. Whoever he got to do the wail-tastic hook should be told to sing in tune or shut the fuck up, and whoever was producing should be told to stop borrowing his basslines from Human League. The wishy-washy first verse – “I saw you driving in your car, best thing I’ve seen yet by far” – is swept aside for a second verse which is shockingly erotic. And it’s not like it’s shockingly hardcore or obscene, it’s shockingly laughable – “I’ll make you climax and reach high tide, I’ll jump on in and slip and slide.” And when he blurts out the howler “Your body’s sexy and quite edible, I’ll make this night unforgettable” you pray for the stereo to explode so you don’t have to hear any more.

‘Look At You Now’ is Kamal trying to be hard. He doesn’t have much success. “Look at you now you been put down, 6 feet under ground” doesn’t cause any fears to arise in me anyway.

I don’t like slating upcoming artists who pray for good reviews to get record deals. But I feel as a reviewer I have a duty to basically rail against the wack shit. I’m sorry Kamal, but I can’t find any redeeming factors in this EP whatsoever. There is no sign of talent, imagination, creativity or originality. Maybe this record was designed for parties and clubs – well in that case you need some bangin’ beats. The production all the way through is just an achingly simplistic mess, and I certainly couldn’t enjoy dancing to it.

On ‘Spanning The Globe’, Kamal warns “I want all you girls cause you’re looking good.” Females, you are advised to stay well clear, because it sure isn’t pretty at the very bottom of the barrel.

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