REVIEW: Petey Pablo – Still Writing In My Diary: 2nd Entry

Still Writing In My Diary

Artist: Petey Pablo

Album: Still Writing In My Diary: 2nd Entry

Label: Jive

Rating: 7 / 10

Reviewer: A to the L

Many’s a mixshow DJ has been dropping ‘Freek-A-Leek’, Petey Pablo’s lead single from this, his sophomore album. The reasons? Well, for one, producer Lil Jon has made the shit bump – its bass heavy and does amazingly powerful vibrating things to even the toughest speakers. For two, its got a devastatingly catchy hook. And three, it beatmatches quickly and easily with Usher’s ‘Yeah’ – y’all muhfuckas are SO lazy.

Anyway if you haven’t spotted the similarities between the release of this, and Petey’s debut, “Diary Of A Sinner”, then let me spell it out. Y’see, after a nice little buzz created through his appearance on a remix of a Black Rob cut, Pablo raised his profile a million notches with the lead single from THAT album, ‘Raise It Up’ – the Timbaland-produced club thumper had people everywhere flailing their shirts around their heads like helicopters, and screaming “North Caroliiiiiiiiiina” at the top of their lungs. The album however largely disappointed – after the hot first single it appeared that the rest of the longplayer was an uneven rushed mess.

Thankfully, PP seems to have taken on board the criticisms and in the making of this album has made sure that there’s more than a hot single on here – it seems that the “2nd Entry” in his diary has a lot more substance than the first.

The opening cut, ‘Part 2’ might throw a lot of people off the scent though. For those unaccustomed to the dirty south stand it might throw you off. Shit, even for those who love the whole crunk style, it might throw YOU off too. Simply put this is typical down south fare – there’s nothing that makes this stand out, and despite the fact that Pablo is using this as a reintroduction to him as an artist with his references to taking “the shirts off again” and starting up “that south shit again”, this track would perhaps be better off left on the studio reels.

When you hear ‘Did You Miss Me?’, the following track, its hard to fathom why THIS didn’t start off the album instead. Over some uptempo Mannie Fresh production, Peter’s gruff, gravelly voice punctures every bar with the title phrase, as Cash Money’s Baby and TQ come through on the mic helpout. Don’t think that the vibe that Mannie creates on the beats makes this a typical party cut though – Pablo takes shots at his label here, taking out his frustrations on record company politics:

“I done had it up to here with this shit
Take this track up to the label, here’s your single bitch.”

This is not the only time on this album that Petey shows another angle to the stereotypical ‘crunk’ rapper.

With Lil Jon the hot producer of the moment, it makes good financial sense to get him on the boards at some point on a south album. Here three tracks feature the talents of the crazy man with the dreads – the ‘Freek-A-Leek’ single you’ll no doubt have heard, but its the other two that are definitely more interesting. ‘Jam Y’all’ borrows heavily from Funkadelic’s ‘Get Off Your Ass And Jam’ for the hook, with Jon’s trademark synths going nuts all over the shop – this has club smash written all over it. ‘U Don’t Want Dat’ is an altogether rowdier affair – (think ‘Bia Bia’, or ‘Neva Eva’ and you’ll get the perfect picture) a slowed down crunkfest with Peter and Jon having a who-can-shout-the-loudest contest, it sums up perfectly the phrase ‘fight music’.

Keeping with the violent theme for a second, ‘O Its On’ sees Young Buck from G-Unit trading verses with Petey Pablo for an all-out attack on Bonecrusher for some reason. The production from Q here is incredible with a sinister blend of woodwind instruments echoing around the duo as they spit threat after threat at the big guy who’s said he’s ‘Neva Scared’.

The link with Timbaland from the first album is also continued here, with the bad boy from Virginia holding down the boards on two cuts. ‘Get On Dis Motorcycle’ and ‘Break Me Off’ are standard Timbo affairs – staccatto beats, and quirky synths all over the chorus. They’re not really varying too far from the typical formula and its because of this that they don’t hold the attention for too long, despite the appearance of Bubba Sparxxx on the former track, and Missy Elliott on the latter.

In fact there’s a period in the middle of the album where everything just sounds a little bland. The two Timbaland cuts, the banjo-laden ‘Let’s Roc’, the self-produced ‘Stick Em Up’, and the weird and downright immature ‘Boy’s Bathroom’ really fall short of what’ expected. Up to this point, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Petey Pablo has fallen short of what’s expected for the second time in a row…

But… somehow he manages to turn the whole album around in its second half, mainly by veering away from the straight-up rowdy party music in the first segment, and instead delivering more personal instrospective material, often complimenting his raps and at times totally replacing them with a surprisingly warm, deep singing voice.

‘What U Know About It’ kicks off the ‘saving grace’ half of the album, with a chopped up Chicago sample dominating the Honky Kong-produced track. Here Petey describes how he feels he represents North Carolina not only on the national Hiphop stage, but internationally too, and the various perils and pitfalls that he’s seen along the way to stardom.

‘I Swear’ features production from Kanye West, who thankfully stays in the production booth and off the mic for this one. His simple acoustic guitar track is free from the sped up hooks he’s gained his rep from, and this minimalist style of production favours Pablo’s unique gravelly tones – a view reinforced by the following track ‘Roll Off’, which sees another simple beat consisting of little more than twinkling chimes and synth stabs. Again this track features a Pablo singing his own hook… and don’t get it twisted – this ain’t no Biz or Erick Sermon singing voice – the cat really has a good voice.

The last two ‘real’ tracks (there’s a bonus cut – more on that on a second) are probably the best on the album. Musically they’re perfect… the subject matter is world’s away from the partying, freaking, and fighting in the first half of the album… and its hard not to feel your respect levels for the man pushing up as you listen to these two tracks. ‘Be Country’ carries gospel, blues, and soul influences throughout, as Petey sings about the fact that even though he’s got some wealth from his music career, he hasn’t forgotten where he came from or the people still there. The vocals are broken up with spoken word pieces from Petey himself and one of his friends that sound neither forced nor faked. Its refreshing to hear an artist sound genuinely happy to be in the position he is in, AND still remain humble at the same time.

And if you thought THAT was refreshing, ‘He Spoke To Me’ will definitely knock you for six. This is a personal thank you from an artist who feels his career and life has been inspired by God, over an incredibly funky beat. Peter carries the song SO well you’d be forgiven for thinking this was K-Ci Hailey singing the words. No matter what your own personal beliefs, you’ll find it admirable that an artists has backed up the customary “thank you Lord” in the liner notes (that so often seems the ‘trendy’ thing to throw in cos everyone else is doing it) with something that makes you feel like he actually DOES carry these beliefs. The song is absolutely beautiful and is almost worth the price of the entire album – I kid you not.

This would normally be the end of the album, but Jive have included a bonus cut, which seems strangely out of place considering what came before. ‘Vibrate’ is a techno-ish, filthy club banger that should rival ‘Freek-A-Leek’ and ‘Jam Y’all’ in terms of possible nightclub play. Its definitely smokin’ hot but as I’ve stated seems slightly anti-climatic after the positivity of ‘He Spoke To Me’.

This was a difficult album to review. On one hand its hard not to be down on an album that has so much filler, but the first two or three tracks and the final four or five add up to a really great ‘long’ EP, and ‘He Spoke To Me’ really does need your listening. Mark this down as a definite improvement on his debut, and the different looks that Petey Pablo has given us here at his life as an artist, certainly indicates that this shouldn’t be the last entry in his diary either. Try before you buy, and you may be pleasantly surprised.

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