REVIEW: Angie Martinez – Animal House

Animal House

Artist: Angie Martinez

Album: Animal House

Label: Elektra

Rating: 6.5 / 10

Reviewer: A to the L

Its ok – you CAN say it. Angie’s debut, “Up Close and Personal”, wasn’t that bad. You know the one that was meant to prove the fact that female radio jocks are nothing more than eye candy at parties and clubs, and yes-women to the Flex’s and Clue’s of this world… the one that was meant to give everyone the chance to tell Angela, “stay on THAT microphone, THIS one is for emcees?” Yeah, that debut. Compared to a lot of the NY hiphop in that Hot-97 influenced, hard-beats-with-a-party-twist genre, it was actually quite good.

Now, to the delight of red-blooded males everywhere, Angie is back with the follow-up “Animal House”, an album that’s being released at quite a dramatic period in Angie’s career. With rival radio station Power 105 beginning to threaten Hot 97’s dominant position on the New York airwaves, and Ms Martinez being caught up in this summer’s Jay-Z versus Nas drama, this is perhaps a good time for Angie to focus solely on the art, and leave the politricks of the music business to the side. Oh, and there’s also the overcoming-the-sophomore-album-jinx thing to battle against too…

Angela’s “Animal House” – seriously kinky porno flick title, or Hiphop release worth picking up? A to the L decides…

Kicking things off with the title track, is an attempt by Angie to not only to introduce you to her new album, but also to her new production team who share the album’s name. Unfortunately, using a track that sounds like a throwaway from Jigga’s “Blueprint” sessions, and a chorus that borrows heavily from ‘Murder Was The Case’, is not a good way to open things. Its all a little boring in fact, with interest levels only be raised by the appearance of Sacario (already known for his verse on Angie’s first single ‘If I Could Go’) who does an amazing impression of Jay-Z, only adding to the Roc-a-fella cast-off feel to this track.

If you pick this album up, be prepared to have your teeth grinding over Angie’s constant repetition of the phrase “The Animals are here.” Its there at the start of almost every track, and as the album progresses and the count gets higher it WILL begin to piss you off. It first crops up on ‘A New Day’, a track that injects a little bit of funk into proceedings to recover from the poor opener. Its similar lyrically to ‘Every Little Girl’ from the first album, detailing Angie’s day to day existence in a male-dominated industry that often looks on women as bitches and hoes, and is “topped off” by Lil Mo – female-hook-singer extraordinaire.

It’s not Lil Mo’s only appearance on the album either – the previously mentioned first single also features her vocals on the hook, and another appearance from Sacario. ‘If I Could Go’ is blowing up clubs and radio stations everywhere at the minute, and one listen to Rick Rock’s catchy production instantly tells you why. A fast-paced mixture of strings, synths, and um… Lil Mo’s wailings make this an addictive listen, and an obvious choice as the lead single.

‘Never’ sees producer Dirty Swift bite down hard on the current trend of throwing speeded up soul samples into the mix as a hook (think ‘Good Times’, ‘Oh Boy’ etc.) Its a fair attempt, and the slower paced beat allows Angie to actually spit confidently and competently, but its hard not to get that feeling that this type of thing is gonna be milked to death. Still, at least Freda Payne and her girls can start to count on picking up some easy cash from all those royalties. And while we’re on the subject on sounding like everything else – Angie, are the Neptunes charging too much for a track now? I only ask because ‘Take U Home’ sounds exactly like something Pharell and company could have knocked up. Producers Cool & Dre’s track’s similarity to a Neptunes beat is uncanny, even going so far as having Kelis show up to sing the hook. This is not to say that it doesn’t bump – I’d go as far as saying that this will probably be the next single – but it looks like today’s generation of popular producers have forsaken sounding like Primo, and instead use the Neptunes’ blueprint when then go into the lab.

The high tempo is continued on the next couple of tracks – ‘We Can Get It On’ and ‘What’s That Sound’. The former features the irresistable NORE on the mic helpout, and is the first track on the album to display evidence of Angie’s Latin roots, both through her own “Spanglish” rhyming on the track, and the track itself being heavy on bongoes, guitars and Spanish horns. Its incredibly bouncy and the ingenious addition of NORE only succeeds in raising energy levels even higher. ‘What’s That Sound’ meanwhile, is another Cool & Dre track, which features Missy Elliott, who’s seriously trying to rival Busta for the “most guest appearances” crown. As usual, Missy spits her usual throwaway rap-by-numbers verse – what’s the point? The track itself is actually quite dull, and begs to be tagged with the “filler” label – so I’ll do it. ‘What’s That Sound’ is straight up filler.

Ah, next we come to the obligatory R’n’B hit… ‘Fucked Up Situation’ is to “Animal House”, as Ghostface’s ‘Never Be The Same Again’ is to “Bulletproof Wallets” – sugar-sweet, generic 3-verses-2-hooks pap. In this case we substitute Carl Thomas for Tony Sunshine, but still get the same radio-friendly bullshit. Needless to say, this will get major play all over the place. Yuk.

The album ends with three tracks which sum up the whole album, and in effect, Angie as an emcee. ‘Waitin’ On’ is a Dirty-South-for-beginners track which features Petey Pablo (to give it some credibility?) To me, it sounds just like every other Dirty South track I’ve ever heard – same strings, same synths, same bounce. A generalisation perhaps, but its important to bear in mind that if this sounds like everything else, then there’s nothing of substance to make it stand out. It’s also obvious that this is not the type of beat that Angie flows comfortably over, which then leads to the assumption that this has been tossed in there as a way of trying to hook fans of the DS genre, rather than through any artistic merit. Conversely, the remix of ‘Live Big’ which winds things up is a perfect audio setting for Angela to spit on – its a return to the sound of 2002-era NY rap, and where she ultimately sounds more at home. Its also evident that throughout the album, Angie sounds better when she’s sharing the spotlight with other guests – in this case Sacacrio and Fat Joe both appear. Final track, ‘So Good’ instantly conjures up images of Angie Stone’s latest single ‘Wish I Didn’t Miss You’, sharing a similar bassline, and carrying similar tone throughout. In this case, Angie’s laments are backed up by the buttery vocals of Keon Bryce, and the souful feel of this track makes it a strong closer, despite its lack of keep-it-real-gritty-Hiphop-vibe.

Let’s make things clear – if you’re gonna cop this, you’re obviously aware that Angela is not the female Rakim. You’re also aware exactly the type of music you’re going to get – its popular rap, radio rap, and at points on this album it’s done incredibly well. However there is the feeling, as on the last album, that Angie has made too much of an attempt to cover all bases, and have too many different sounds on the album. If you liked the first album, this should be worth a shot, but for those who are new to the Angie experience, it might be a case of try before you buy.

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