Album: Hood Hop
Label: So So Def
Rating: 2 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
Its J Kwon not Raekwon, so put all thoughts of the Iron Chef from Wu-Tang out of your mind. This particular ‘Kwon is a teenager from Nelly’s stomping ground of St Louis, Missouri who inked a deal with Janet’s favourite dwarf and has been blowing up radios since the turn of the year with the love-it-or-hate-it club anthem, ‘Tipsy’. With the release of his long player, J Kwon hopes to follow in the footsteps of the St Louis natives who have already blown up the spot for the city with the big arch – Chingy and the already-mentioned band aided one. The fact that both of these artists have seemingly more hype than actual skills hasn’t stopped either putting out largely enjoyable albums, but its clear that they’ve aimed at the commercial market. With the the lucky midget Dupri executive-producing this, its clear that “Hood Hop” is shooting for the very same targets.
The album kicks off with a pointless intro where J Kwon instantly pisses me off by bragging about how he throws his money around. Now I ain’t hating, I’m just irritated that homeboy is gassed off having some spending money, and doesn’t realise how Dupri fucked over Kris Kross and Bow Wow. Oh well I guess he’ll find out soon enough. Anyways, the “Hood Hop” album begins properly with a track of the same name, and its a pleasant surprise – the Trackboyz production here is bass heavy in the extreme, and certainly sounds nice coming out of the speakers. The track itself is formulaic durty durty south stuff – rowdy, shouty choruses and verses from J Kwon that are instantly forgettable – but really on these songs, the verses HAVE no purpose in the first place other that to split up the choruses, so I guess he gets a pass. Following this comes ‘Tipsy’ – not much point in getting into detail, as unless you’ve been in a coma for 5 months, you’ll have heard this at least once. Lets make it quick – a beat ripped off from ‘Grindin’, and the singalong “Er’body in the club gittin’ tipsy” chorus… that’s it. Verbally, J Kwon does little but prove that he can count up to six and back down again – again its the beat and the chorus that make the song memorable.
‘IC IC’ combines cowbell chimes, spongy basslines and sharp snares to provide an interesting slow-tempoed Trackboyz beat for J Kwon and guests the St Lunatics to mumble unintelligably over. Honestly, its obvious here that the St Lunatics have been taken by the hand by Nelly thru the whole process of being in the studio – they ALL sound like him, and have the similar sing-song delivery that Band Aid Boy has. J Kwon meanwhile could be any other unsigned southern rapper – there’s nothing here that makes homeboy stand out from the crowd. Oh well.
Four tracks in and ‘Show Your Ass’ does provide something concrete to take out of this album. The Trackboyz definitely have some skills on the boards – each of the cuts so far have been different enough to show that they can give an artist different looks and different styles in the studio. Here they come again with the heavy bass and lay it under a middle-eastern influenced instrumental, as J Kwon links up with Eboni Eyes to trade more nonsense over the beat. I’ve noticed that he keeps referencing the fact that he’s the cat who made ‘Tipsy’ – living off one song is not a nice way to build a career. Kris Krossdom beckons.
‘They Ask Me’ actually shows an attempt by J Kwon to come with some more material of substance, than club bangers. Trackboyz appropriately provide him with a more mellow beat filled with strings, and without the thumping club beats, Kwon actually becomes more understandable, albeit his attempts at breaking down his short 17 year old life story are still a little clumsy. But for one so young, he still gets some props for attempting a track like this, and truth be told, he DOES have quite a life story so far.
Unfortunately, when put in context against the rest of the album, even an introspective track like this sounds like part of an overall album formula. Its easy to picture Dupri and co guiding J Kwon with comments like, “Ok ‘Tipsy’ is your club banger, lets have a couple of song for the ladies, a few more club joints, get some guest in… oh and don’t forget you need a ‘deep’ track too – everybody is coming with one deep track on their joints these days.”
This theory almost seems self-proven when the next song, ‘Underwear’ takes any positive or admirable qualities from the previous one, and tosses them in the trash. If you haven’t already guessed, on ‘Underwear’ J Kwon wants women to get butt naked and fuck. That’s it. Unfortunately its absolute bobbins too. NEXT!
‘Welcome To Tha Hood’ rips off ‘Rockin’ It’. I’m pissed. Now I know it’s been murdered before – most famously by Jay-Z on ‘Sunshine’, but here J Kwon stoops to even lower levels, fulfilling rap stereotype 101 with ease with every 10 second chorus…
“Now do you gotta gun? Welcome to the hood
Do you got a pocket full of crack? Welcome to the hood
Lost your money shooting caps? Welcome to the hood
Have you ever been car-jacked? Welcome to the hood”
Way to go, youngsta.
The rest of the album continues in a similar vein with below-average lyrics throughout from Kwon over a series of nice beats, mainly from the Trackboyz. A couple more guests pop up, (Big B on the plodding ‘U Ain’t Gotta Like Me’, and Dupri himself on the mind numbing ‘My Enemies’) but the tracks they feature on are the weaker ones on the album, and they make little impact. ‘Parking Lot’ is about hanging out in a parking lot. That’s it really. Some deep shit there. ‘You And Me’ raises the interest a little, mainly because the Trackboyz production is a departure from everything on the rest of the album – here they come with warm guitar licks and a breathy hook from Sadiyyah, to provide a surefire single. Things wrap up with the horrid ‘Morning Light’, where Bryan Michael Cox’s boring piano routine on the track lets J Kwon play the “Thug 4 Life (but let me ask God for forgiveness for being a thug)” card. Again, the formula shines through like a beacon.
In some ways its hard to fault J Kwon – he’s came through from nowhere into an industry awash with cash that chews up and recycles music stars every few months, so its no surprise that this whole album sounds like he’s went into the studio and did what he’s been told to do. Everyone wins in the short term – J Kwon gets some cash, Dupri gets another easy-to-pimp teenager, and the TRL crowd get their latest one-single hero. Whichever way you look at it though – real Hiphop is the loser. If you’re looking for a quick sixty minute fix then this glossy album might hold you down for that one hour… but as an album to continually return to? No thanks. I’ll hop to something else.