The DL issue 876 - Fiddy: The Verdict
Friday, 14 September 2007
The two MCs represent divergent but not wholly incompatible ideological streams in today's commercial hip hop. Curtis Jackson appeals to the streets with his brawny rap - despite his unorthodox Republican sympathies - but Kanye, his family members of the black intelligentsia, has artistic cred.
As of press time, The DL hadn't heard Kanye's Graduation, but Fiddy's Curtis was serviced to the Australian media earlier than expected.
The DL isn't a fan of Fiddy - and Curtis, delayed after successive singles bombed, doesn't change that. Fiddy is a parody of the gangsta rapper. He may yet be hip hop's last viable 'G'. A hardcore cartoon character.
The mainstream press often charges that gangsta rap promotes violence, neglecting that, with the same logic, Shakespeare's Macbeth could be described as proto-gangsta. The difference is that, with Macbeth considered part of a literary canon, we can distance ourselves from it and see it within a moral framework. Some day academics will approach gangsta rap with the same detachment. Ironically, Eminem, hip hop's great white hope, has already been canonised, which is perhaps why he's sagely semi-retired. His shock value has diminished now that Germaine Greer is bumpin' his shit.
With gangsta pioneers like Ice Cube, there was always political agency, but you don't hear that in Fiddy. And, beyond his thuggish posturing, Tupac Shakur's work was emotionally complex. The Game has engaged a new generation of hip hop fans since he's a throwback to classic West Coast rap. Still, it's hard to say what Fiddy signifies - other than being a corporate gangsta.
Fiddy might have been so much more, had he built on his early promise, but he simply couldn't be arsed. He's even lost the wit.
Fiddy is his image. His is the art of co-option.
If 2005's The Massacre disappointed, then Curtis doesn't compensate. Fiddy was lucky to live down that lame-ass bio-pic.
For all its A-list guests - Akon, Justin Timberlake, Mary J Blige - Curtis is lacklustre. Fiddy's rapping is whiny, monotonous and, regardless of its hardcore content, passionless.
Only on the opener, My Gun Go Off, does he pack a punch. His lyrics are unoriginal. I Get Money is archetypal Fiddy - and certainly preferable to Amusement Park with its cringeworthy metaphors. Fiddy trades in empty controversy.
The LP's beats come from the triumvirate of Dr Dre, Eminem and Timbaland - but these bored playas do no better than lesser-known contributors.
Akon makes the thug ’n’ B I'll Still Kill his own. The leaked Follow My Lead, with the underrated Robin Thicke, is conspicuously for the ladies. Though she’s out of place, The Pussycat Dolls' Nicole Scherzinger brings much-needed sass to Dre's techno-grind Fire. Blige - who shared MJB Da MVP with Fiddy - redeems All Of Me, performing the LP's most memorable hook. And what's the story with the final track, Touch The Sky- Kanye called - he wants his title back.
Of course, there are alternatives to buying Curtis - one of them is Kanye's Graduation. And, if you really want seminal hip hop, nothing beats Pharoahe Monch's Desire.