Album: It Is What It Is
Label: Major Key Entertainment
Rating: 4 / 10
Reviewer: DJ MF
The 657th Element of Hip Hop – if you’re a member of a group/duo/crew, at some point you will release a solo album. See – Outkast.
Quick question- who’s the better MC in Smif-n-Wessun? Most would say that Tek without Steele and vice versa isn’t really a compatible idea.
Well, the last year has seen the idea come to fruition. Steele dropped an indifferent mixtape last year, Tek dropped an indifferent mixtape last year and guess what, this year it’s time for Tek to his toe into the pool again.
Unfortunately we get the same indifferent result.
That’s not to say that “It Is What It Is” is a bad mixtape. Rather, it’s a fairly boring mixtape. Better yet, while listening to “It Is What It Is”, you get the feeling that you’re listening to what amounts to a ‘demo’ for Tek – a smattering of every possible rap style of the last few years, and not enough of what makes Smif-n-Wessun, and by extension Tek, a unique group in hip hop.
Things start out very sloppy – the dated beat of ‘Respect’ coupled with standard gun rhymes does little to suggest that Tek can be a solo artist. Luckily, the next few tracks bring back good vibes – ‘All Massive’, a track first heard on the “Duck Down Collect Dis” compilation LP makes an appearance, and is still as reggae influenced and danceable as before – yeah that’s right, I called a BCC track danceable. ‘G Walkin” manages to NOT be a stereotypical guns track – consider it a more introspective look at what it’s like to live in the hood – and it’s all the better for it, but is hampered by the fact that its barely a minute and a half long.The reggae influences continue on what is the best track of the album, ‘#1 Sound’ with a lovely vocal sample and slamming drums and Tek sporting a flow that wouldn’t be out of place on any classic Smif-n-Wessun track you’ve heard before. It’s a legitimately great track with great production and some great storytelling, and for that reason, it sticks out like a sore thumb in the morass of watered down concepts that follow.
The morass I’m speaking of includes tracks like ‘Double M’ which deals with the never-heard-before-in-rap topics of murder and money, ‘Young Man’, which notwithstanding a nice message, is the sort of synthed out bullshit that got the BCC as a collective into shitsville in the first place. In fact, this type of synthed out production is found on a LOT of the following tracks, and only makes me think of the BCC album “For The People” which teemed with tripe like this.
During the rest of the mixtape, the only remaining bright spots are the reggae influenced tracks that follow, not surprisingly – ‘Nothing’s Gonna Change’ and the ‘My Gun’ remix.
What if this album was built on that idea? Reggae influenced hip hop – the stuff that the BCC has always had a firm grasp of? I’m willing to bet it would be a great idea, and one that would sound amazing. Unfortunately, “It Is What It Is” is not filled with such ideas, but rather a mix of ill suited styles and beats for an MC who ultimately works better as a PNC than as a main event performer. That’s not a knock on Tek, or Steele, considering that they dropped an underrated gem in 2005 with their “Reloaded” LP – it’s more of a statement of fact.