Artist: The Product
Album: One Hunid
Label: Underground Railroad / Koch
Rating: 8 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
I think its difficult for anyone to deny Brad ‘Scarface’ Jordan’s place in the annals of Hiphop history. From his debut outings over Tony Montana snippets with the Geto Boys, to his most recent moves as head of Def Jam South, Scarface has transformed from psychotic 5th Ward upstart, to bonafide hustler, while never once stepping away from the people or the music that brought about the change – Scarface was, is, and will continue to be all about Hiphop for the streets.
Never a stranger to the art of putting on friends, homies, relatives, and general Hiphop hangers-on, (think FaceMob, “My Homies”, and the upcoming “My Homies 2” for starters) Scarface has quietly leant his name to this Koch-sponsored release, the introductory effort from his new company Underground Railroad Movement. And while The Product is the group name for the alliance between Bay Area vet Will Hen, and Jackson, Mississippi native Young Malice, it doesn’t for one second mean that Brad is taking a backseat role here, as he appears on approximately 90% of “One Hunid”, wearing both rapper and producer hats whilst doing so. (Also manning the production wagons are The Alchemist, longtime Geto Boys contributor John Bido, and Oakland native Tone Capone.)
What to expect? Scarface promises “real rap, from the heart”, something he claims that is missing in a large proportion of rap music today. “Don’t nobody really spill their guts on what they really go through in their life,” he continues. “Motherfuckers are really leaving the game out of rap. Rap has turned into a dance show, a pop show. I wouldn’t be surprised if motherfuckers just started opening up clubs, and the name of the the club be “Rap.” Cause its not Hiphop – Hiphop is a way of life.”
Strong words indeed. And as “The Product” gets underway with first track, the Tone Capone-produced ‘Get Out’, it seems that realness is something he has instilled in his veterans. Over a Dre-ish beat, full of powerful strings, and peppy drums, both Will Hen and Malice ride the beat supremely as they break down their position in the dope game, and why they made the decisions they did…
“Rap race, paperchase, dope cases pendin’,
ATF, DEA, interrogating my women,
Stressed out, worn through, with all the shit I’m defendin’,
Prosecutors got my co-d’s breakin’ and bendin’,
My whole life I’ve been singin’, but now I’m praying to God,
‘Lord forgive me please, I swear I’m ’bout to go get a job’
Got a son on the way and he gon’ need his daddy,
See I was only sellin’ work because I needed a caddy,
On 22’s, ghetto blues got me strumming on my street guitar,
Cos in the ghetto, ballin’ niggas are the superstars,
I woulda been a hooper star, but they so far and dew,
That I just watch em on TV like you.”
After this insightful opener however, things fall a bit flat as the synthetic ‘2 Real’, and the turgid ‘In The Hood’ lope into earshot. On the former, Capone’s organic production on the opening track is eschewed in favor of sharp, plastic synths; while on the latter track, simple piano rolls, police sirens, a Nate Dogg-lite hook, and tired delivery from the Product duo combine to leave the listener more than a little bored.
Thankfully things improve as we enter the middle portion of the album. ‘Read’ carries a much more soulful vibe, with earthy beats and a gorgeous female hook, while ‘Hustle’ sees Capone make up for his earlier failings, as he builds an amazing track from doleful guitars and and somber strings, allowing the emcees to drop their own melancholic musings on hood existence; ‘G Type’ is Alchemist’s lone run out on the boards, and he lays down radiant keys and snappy drums, as Hen, Malice and Scarface leave an impressive mark; ‘Not A Word’ is Scarface-produced, and indeed, would sit comfortably amidst some of his older material – that’s not to say that the track sounds dated… its just that classic Scarface sound and vibe.
The album continues with, ‘I’m A’ – a strange type of track. There’s no denying that the beat is a definite head nodder, or that it borrows heavily (as ‘Get Out’ does) from the best elements of the Dr Dre production handbook. However the song’s chorus is so similar to Dre’s own ‘East Coast West Coast Killa’ that it destroys any real concentration on the track – a listener can’t HELP but recall the 1996 track immediately the hook comes into play. The following cut ‘Pride’ is also a strong contender for skipping, with its cheap keys and weak drums irritating more than stimulating.
Its a relief, that for the second time on the album, a couple of weak tracks are succeeded by a quartet of absorbing ones. ‘Love Of Money’ features Hen and Malice break down the large amount of dirt they’ve been forced to do to get the green, over a buoyant beat that somewhat glosses over the unmoralled behaviour described between the catchy choruses; ‘Dead Broke’ sounds like a non-too-distant cousin of Akon’s ‘Lock’d Up’, although his annoyingly nasal whine has been replaced by Scarface’s gruff voice on the hook; ‘Don’t Matter’ is our customary ‘ode to women’ which every good album these days is never without; while the closer ‘Life’s Been Good’ is another of the album’s stronger tracks, content-wise, its tales of happiness and escape from the hood are the complete antithesis of everything that has gone before.
Overall, this is a impressive ‘debut’ from a couple of underground artists who have been grinding for years. Obviously the presence of Scarface, both as overseer, and unofficial third member, will draw the majority of the focus to the project, btu perhaps that’s not an altogether bad thing, as it will keep much of the pressure off Hen and Malice, allowing them to simply enjoy what, for them, should be a well-received first outing.