REVIEW: Kamal – Suburbia


Artist: Kamal

Album: Suburbia

Label: Dapwati Entertainment

Rating: 0 / 10

Reviewer: Timid

Much has been said about this New Jersey native since his EP review here last September. First given the once over by our resident Irishman and webmaster A to the L, then, after an email from a disgruntled Kamal disagreeing with the verdict, a second look was taken by the hardly sober Adrunk. Now it’s my turn.

This time Kamal is back with a full-length album entitled “Suburbia” spanning 18 tracks. The question is, has Kamal improved upon his last effort? Whatever the answer is, one thing is for sure, you have to give it to Kamal for submitting another album for review to the same place that sodomized him relentlessly with a jagged phallus the size of the Starship Enterprise last year, and WITHOUT offering any lube. You HAVE to respect that. As a hip hop artist myself I understand that it can often be hard to digest the negative comments about your music, but that’s what you are asking for when you submit your work for review; you have to respect that as well. So although when I write reviews, I always give a real opinion, I also try to give constructive criticism that can help. However, after listening to this full album I am caught with trying to balance my duty to give constructive criticism against a disgust for the view of hip hop that is presented here.

Kamal is very ambitious. There is abundant evidence of this on his website where he seems to dabble in various things. It is also clearly laid out in the explanation of the acronym of his company name Dapwati; DAPper, Wise, Artistic, Talented, International. He vocalizes this vision of grandeur on the intro to Suburbia when he let’s us know that “There’s a new player in town, a new No Limit, a new So So Def, a new P Diddy.” Hmmm. It’s hard to resist taking shots at the limitations of No Limit no matter what the dollar figures say but I will; this is Kamal’s review.

The first cut ‘Cash Flow Remix’ comes in and gives a hint as to what I feel is Kamal’s interpretation of hip hop music. He overstates his abilities here with “the whole game gonna change when my joint releases.” This is a totally overused line, I’d be willing to bet that over half of all emcees have used this but what makes it significant here is that this release does have the potential to change the game – just not fin the way Kamal is aiming. The way this and the following tracks come off, its obvious that the underlying intent is to directly reflect the grubbiest elements of the commercial rap that is dominating the airwaves; but the tracks here are even MORE watered down, to the point where its easy to wonder how exactly this is contributing at all to the art form. So when I speak of change, I’m hoping that maybe someone will wake up and take responsibility for the messages they are giving out and how others will take them as representing the whole of hip hop. He then concludes this verse with “I’m about to rip this motherfuckin’ beat to pieces.”

Now with track three ‘The Money’ comes a positive point in this whole album that is repeated several times. Kamal has either upgraded his skills in production or got a producer to contribute some beats because this beat isn’t half bad. I can hear potential in this, with even better production. Other spots with potential, that show a marked improvement in Dapwati music production can be heard on ‘Real Playas’, ‘Pimps & Hustlas’, ‘Who Da Man Remix’, ‘Wait & See’, ‘Dangerous Minds’, and ‘Drive’with the latter three at the forefront of the album as the best cuts instrumentally. Lyrical content however is depressingly poor.

In addition, on ‘The Money’ we’re introduced to some of Kamal’s friends. JB makes an appearance on this track and several others with another cat rounding off the cut actually coming off with the best verse. Flow wise ‘Real Players’ and ‘Dangerous Minds’ are perhaps the best cuts on the album. I’ll give it to them though, they seemed to all step up their game a bit on these tracks with the exception of the man of the hour, Kamal. These aren’t cuts that are going to blow your mind by any means and when Kamal steps to the mic he actually brings down the quality of the two best cuts on his own album.

One of two interludes on Suburbia pops up with Kamal giving a minute long lecture on his definition of pimps, tricks, hookers, and the “fat cat in the back office making all the money”. He labels Bill’s Clinton and Gates as pimps and the latter as “the biggest pimp of them all” because “he’s pimpin’ that software like Goldie pimp hoes” and then poses the question “Which are you going be?” He gives his answer to that query with the next song ‘Pimps & Hustlas’. More of the same uninteresting stuff that Kamal seems to be unable to get past in his limited view of what hip hop is or has the potential to be. The hook on this joint is delivered nice enough but again the track falls short when the actual rapping begins and his boasts that he can “rock a mic like you wouldn’t believe” are pitiful.

Very poor production and low quality sounds plague the instrumentation of this album throughout. ‘Watchu Wanna Do’ is a prime example – the strings, the drums, the bassline all have a decidely cheap sound. Kamal once again displays the weak mic skills and delivery that wouldn’t have even hung in the 80’s with the likes of the Sugar Hill Gang when he hits us with…

“I got emcees scared of me, they just can’t compare to me, I’ll make ’em bow down and swear to me
I get paid cause I’m a baller, get out my way cause I’m a shot caller.”

There is a pattern here and it is one that I think is a big factor in the ineffectiveness of anything Kamal is doing on this album. There is no heart in it. His flow is forced – there is no natural delivery at all… even Kamal himself sounds uninterested in what it is he is saying. His lyrics are just trying to copy the shallow shit that is popular right now and fail to even hit that low target. It’s as if he has said “rappers are getting paid – it’s easy – I want to do it too so I can be paid.” For example, he tosses the infamous “bling bling” phrase around here because he thinks it adds credibility to his lyrics or something and tries to pack EVERY prominent rap stereotype into his music. It’s like he cares nothing for the culture or the art. Hip hop is so much more than that. To his credit though, he’s tracks aren’t “death threats” on a beat like so much rap that’s out today. Thankfully, he seems to have steered clear of at least one cliché.

Kamal does try to branch out a little with ‘Wait & See’ which is an R’n’B cut with Kamal dropping a cameo verse. Ron J does the honors here on the mic and I have to say I’m not feeling this – this could be done a lot better . I guess the song lyrics aren’t totally atrocious. The hook isn’t bad. Ron J is though. He could benefit from the wizardry of Ashanti’s engineer.

Following ‘Interlude 2’ which has a girl sounding like she was forced to repeat the line “Kamal make me feel good” at gunpoint, we’re treated to the remix of ‘Freak Tonight’. I know it’s a remix because we are told over and over “it’s a remix y’all, it’s a remix” at the onset of this joint. Another bad cut – in fact lyrically this is probably Kamal at his worst. The track is boring, there’s nothing to hold any attention and the scratches are terribly out of place and irritate throughout the song.

As mentioned before, the production on ‘Dangerous Minds’is perhaps the strongest on this CD. This cut probably also holds the title for the one with the best flow as well if you discount JB’s breath control problems on the hook. (Although, on ‘Y’all Don’t Want None’, another collab effort, JB delivers the hook better.)

‘Drive’ sees Kamal at his best moment on the whole album. No “bling bling” here, no false bravado – but a message. Kamal seems to be a bit more comfortable with his delivery here. The blues guitar makes up the meat of the track and sounds pretty good paving the way for Kamal to get across the hook that is a far cry from anything before from him…

“You about to lose your mind, you about to lose your soul, one hit from the pipe and you can lose control
You sure you want to ride on the wild side, you can run but you can’t hide
And it’s always fun ’till somebody dies, you really want to take that ride?”

Now this album should have ended there with the best cut but we are thrown back to the bottom of the stairs of the house with ‘Big Booty Girls’. Just… no… The same sentiment goes for the final cut ‘All The Good Times’ – an attempt at something personal and to thank those in Kamal’s life. What makes this stumble is, again, delivery, no flow, lyrics and a singer that really really hurts this track.

There is nothing here that says “I have been rapping since 1994” as Kamal’s bio claims. From the writings on the Kamal2000 site it seems that Dapwati is trying to do its thing and perhaps deserves some respect for that. Picking up the mic isn’t easy to do and going from unknown to known is even more difficult – there needs to be heart in this, you have to feel what you are doing. It takes a lot to stand up in the face of comments like the one my 15 year old cousin delivered when she heard a few cuts from Suburbia – “He needs to be slapped for putting something out like that”. Your motivation has to be something more than the Cash Flow and getting a Big Booty Girl to be your Freak Tonight.

On MTV’s “Tough Enough”, one contestant said that he only went on the show to be seen on MTV. He knew nothing about wrestling nor did he care. He made it, sucked, and got kicked off – but to do something like this to begin with disgusted the pro wrestlers, because it showed he had no respect for what it is they do or for the person whose spot he took that might have really wanted to do it. I feel the same about Kamal – although he isn’t taking anyone’s spot, he doesn’t respect this shit.

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