DJ Drama. Arguably one of the most powerful and well-connected DJs in the game; the mastermind of the Gangsta Grillz series is back again with his new studio offering, Gangsta Grillz Vol. 2.
Diddy may have went overboard on the hype (like usual) in regards to the importance of Drama to the game, but hyperbole aside; the man is important. Drama gets new artists out in the open, brings out things you’ve never seen in some of your favorites (and not so favs), and stamps approval on what should be the new hotness. Gangsta Grillz as a series is the stuff of mixtape legends and a Cadillac standard that other DJ’s aspire to. Have you heard an artist shoot ANY ill will towards the Philly native?
That’s a rarity on it’s own. Aside from getting a little wordy over some of my favorite tracks (which is a cardinal sin amongst DJ’s aside from the DJ echo/echo/echo) Drama manages to put together heat with a seemingly limitless talent pool. The original Gangsta Grillz album had to be seen as an all-star meeting of Hip-Hop heavyweights. However, the album released with a bloated 21 tracks and not all of them as heated as tracks like “Cannon”, “The Art of Storytellin’ Part 4” or “Taking Pictures”. It just was too much and even Drama has acknowledged this, stating that he intended Volume 2 to be a focused, wall-to-wall banger.
So with the sequel on deck and the fat trimmed for this one at a sleek 13 tracks, DJ Drama faces the challenge of improvement (a trend these past few reviews) for Gangsta Grillz as a studio offering. And here…we…go.
Featuring T.I., Young Dro, Sean P, & Lonnie Mac; Produced by David Banner
I love it when an album gets popping to start off. David Banner lays down a rapid fire drum pattern with his trademark horns and synth, a perfect canvas for our cast of Atlanta natives. T.I. leads the charge (naturally) with a smooth, autobiographical flow into his hustling roots. His company takes the same approach, making sure to shout out various neighborhoods and landmarks; authenticity is a plus on this. Nice to see Sean P still laying down his Southern style bravado; Lonnie Mac threatens to steal the song in terms of engrossing storytelling which I found impressive for my first listen of him. Young Dro is Young Dro, definitely not an insult. Just not show stealing.
Unexpectedly lyrical, with a nice bounce to it. This was definitely a choice track to start the charge and I’d definitely keep the windows down while making that ride on 85, ya dig?
2. We Must Be Heard
Featuring Ludacris, Willie the Kid, & Busta Rhymes; Produced by V12 the Hitman
A lyrical heavy-hitter on an album I wasn’t expecting many on. Not that I doubted him, but Willie (a Gangsta Grillz favorite) really holds his own with two proven lyricists in Busta and Luda. I love this beat and not just for the Godfather sample. This beat seems to be subdued on purpose for the sake of letting the trinity of flows shine as opposed to overpowering what they have to say. Definitely not a trio I was expecting for a track like this, but I love surprises, especially good ones. This track is all about the message here and it’s a well told, gritty one where paper is getting rough to stack. Must listen.
3. Love For Money
Featuring Trey Songz, Willie the Kid, Gucci Mane, La the Darkman, Yung Joc, Bun B, & Flo Rida; Produced by V12 the Hitman
V12 switches gears and unfortunately, takes a step backward with an almost generic synth and drum beat here. You’ve heard one like this beat, you’ve heard em’ all unfortunately.
The wordplay here is fortunately better. I was expecting this track to go epic lengths the likes of “I’m So Hood (remix)” given the feature list, but everyone takes abbreviated verses and it works. They do more with less and get straight to the punches. With some in this cast of characters (*cough*Gucci*cough*Joc*cough*) it’s a good thing. Trey Songz actually sounds motivated for a hook for a change and what a difference that makes. A better track than the sum of its parts. Not a standout, but very listenable.
4. I’m Fresh
Featuring Mike Jones, Rick Ross, & Trick Daddy; Produced by V12 the Hitman
V12 again, and this beat has a bit more meat to it than the previous. It’s like a refined alternate version of the one before; a tad more menacing. Mikes Jones handles hook duty on this one, probably the best place for him given his love of repetition. Trick Daddy hasn’t lost a step and Ross continues showcasing his improved lyrical ability. Even in swagger tracks like this, he’s come such a long way from his Port Of Miami style.
My only complaint lies in the fact that it’s just a good track. Still lacks a standout quality to it despite the participants and how well placed the participants were. [Mike Jones woulda been on my murder list if he had a verse like any on “Happy Birthday”. –readies suicide pill-] Otherwise, another hit for the album, just waiting to be taken back by something since “We Must Be Heard”.
5. Day Dreaming
Featuring Akon, Snoop Dogg, & T.I.; Produced by Drumma Boy
I see why this was a single. Beautiful, well crafted track on all accounts. This was originally set to be a track for Akon’s “Freedom” album entitled “Go-Go Dancer”, but found it’s way here as “Day Dreaming”. Akon’s loss, Drama’s gain. Drumma Boy crafts a synth track the way it SHOULD be done and it is perfectly seductive, how any girl could resist a tease to this song is beyond me.
Some have nicknamed this “I Wanna Fuck You Part 2” and I can see the similarities (especially in regard to two of the players involved, Akon & Snoop), but this I dare say is a better track and I can’t say enough good about it. Snoop turns in the kind of verse you KNOW he can turn in and T.I. continues his hot streak of features with a song stealing verse to bookend this one.
“Hey I sit and gaze hazy eyed as I day dream
Her and n her girls on the stage doin’ they thing
Double D’s full of silicon and saline
She thirty but don’t look a day over 18
Her booty big enough to swallow up a g-string
Hey gon put that ass on me like a bee sting
Hey let the King on, beat it like a tambourine
And peel ya out ya jeans and eat it like a tangerine
You see her face down, ass high
Make everybody throw they cash high
Back in the club already
she been stuck in my head since last night
Girl you got my dreams so
Sexy when I sleep
No mo fanatsies
I want the real thing”
Standout by far and a good example of the right kind of single. I’m usually not a stickler for the ladies songs for the sake of them, but when they’re put together as well as this, I’m all for them. We have a winner.
Featuring Ray J, Fabolous & La the Darkman; Produced by V12 the Hitman
Who knew Gangsta Grillz would have two shining examples of for the ladies/sexin’ (Got reintroduced to that word again recently.) songs done CORRECTLY. I’m shocked. I’m even more shocked that Ray J slays this track. I find him a very hit and miss artist, but he destroys this track and makes you believe he’s after the tenderoni (I’m bringing it back dammit.) in this track. Fabolous turns in his usual reliable feature and listening to it, I can’t understand why he’s left off so many “Best Rapper” lists. Man has got punches for days like Mayweather. Catch his Shawty LO metaphor early in his verse.
La comes through proper on this as well, lending the track the rough edge it needs when compared to Ray and Fabo. This track comes together so well and the V12 beat brings it all together to create a double feature of naughty tracks that wouldn’t be out of place for a business time mix, if you catch my drift. –hint hint-
A surprising winner on an album like this.
Featuring Gucci Mane, Yo Gotti, Lonnie Mac, & OJ Da Juiceman; Produced by Zaytoeven
I’m that grown man crying in Scarface’s song when I listen to shit like this. They had the NERVE to make this a single and make this the longest song on the album. The beat is as uninspired as the collection of flows on this track, with Lonnie probably the only one attempting to raise this up to something listenable. Again, I wonder where Juiceman gets all this hype with the stir-fried bullshit he called a verse on this one.
Skip. Please do. Barely listenable and compared to the other things popping on this album, it really points out just how bad this is. This whole track is ridiculous…and by that I mean the dictionary term….meaning it sucks. Thank you.
8. Come Up Boys
Featuring La the Darkman & Willie the Kid ; Produced by V12 the Hitman
I like tracks like this. Two hype MC’s on a star-studded album with a track to themselves. It’s up to them whether they rip it up or not. Fortunately, they make it happen and you may gain further respect for La and Willie after a strong track like this. V12 puts together a focused beat with light guitar samples to give it a sense of urgency and intensity. The kids get 2:27 to make something special and they do just that, but I can’t help but wonder why THEY didn’t get 3 more minutes added to shine; as if the Wack Wonders of the World© needed it on the track before. [Some might say that was harsh, but all 4 have the talent (allegedly) to prove me wrong.]
A winner and unfortunately, too short. Hope both find some new fans after this one.
9. Yacht Music
Featuring Nas, Willie the Kid, Scarface, & Marsha Ambrosius; Produced by DJ Khalil
It’s criminal how laid back this track is. I absolutely love it and DJ Khalil gets props for making a classy beat for all those blessing it. I was excited to see Marsha Ambrosius (formerly of Floetry, miss those dames.) on this, because she had a hand in the hands-down banger of the last Gangsta Grillz album, “Art of Storytellin’ Part 4”. She doesn’t disappoint on this one, a steady voice cooing lightly in the background and adding to the mellow factor when she belts out the hook effortlessly.
Another strange trio is made with Nas, Scarface, and Willie; and again, it works. All three produce subdued flows that still represent their styles, but add to the chill factor of this track. Another surprise on this album and not something I would have excepted to hear, especially the way the last album was crafted. Make sure to give this a listen, preferably after listening to “Yacht Club” by Rick Ross for your sea-based mixtape.
10. Stripper Love
Featuring The-Dream, La the Darkman, & Too Short; Produced by Christopher “Tricky” Stewart
Compared to the other tracks of this type, “Sweat” & “Day Dreaming”, this is decidedly average. It definitely sounds like a Dream track, even produced by his right hand man Tricky Stewart. It just feels out of place on this album and at times, lightweight. La’s verse is probably the weakest of his many on this album and Too Short’s feature is, no pun intended, too short to mean anything really. Yes, he does say “bitch”…but not like we know and love. This saddens me. Regardless, the track is merely okay, just lacks a quality to really add to this album as a whole. Can’t say you’re missing anything here.
Featuring Gucci Mane, Willie the Kid, & Lonnie Mac; Produced by V12 the Hitman
Not bad here. V12 works overtime, producing his 6th of 7 tracks on this album. He’s in danger of getting exposed unfortunately, given 4 of the 7 come off like alternate versions of each other. Regardless, not a bad track at all here. The young guns take this track over and turn it some heated verses, Lonnie’s being his weakest of the album. Gucci Mane comes with his best of the album, which isn’t saying much, but at least he doesn’t come off like an idiot like on “Ridiculous”. Worth a listen for the sake of Kid and Lonnie. A nice addition to them album, just not among the strongest.
12. Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy
Featuring La the Darkman, Bun B, Styles P, & Jovan Davis; Produced by V12 the Hitman
V12 can finally take a rest after this one, his last beat being one of the better ones of this album. Jovan Davis, doing his best neo-Curtis Mayfield voice to offset the mean-spirit in the beat, hooks this track and it definitely works. Bun B takes honors for best verse, bringing it rough and rugged with the matter of fact metaphors you expect from him. P and La hold up their end as well, making this track an enjoyable mix of production and wordplay from another strange mix of suspects. Thumbs up to this.
13. Gotta Get It
Featuring B.G., Juvenile, & Soulja Slim; Produced by Drumma Boy
B.G. SIGHTING! And he hasn’t lost a step either. New Orleans stand up on this one, with Drumma Boy giving them a beat that’s worth ripping on this one. Haven’t heard from Juvi the Great in a good while either and his flow is more focused than his usual, given the abbreviated time on this track. Again I ask, why are bangers like this shortened, but we got 6 minutes for Ridiculous? -sigh-
Despite that gripe, awesome track and Soulja Slim comes from beyond the grave to put it down with his squad one good time. Banger status for sure, and a great way to close out Volume 2 of Gangsta Grillz. Now bring on the Hot Boyz reunion ASAP!
Drama made good on his promise to keep it focused and strictly the music on this one. The skits are packed in with the songs and aren’t long enough to take away from what it’s supposed to be about, hot tracks presented by one of the most respect DJ’s in the game. The formula works, already making this a better album than Gangsta Grillz Volume 1 for it.
I’m impressed with the combinations made for this album as well as the young guns they chose [La, Lonnie, Willie] to shine with established artists on this CD. They more than held their own and I hope nothing but big things for all three in the rap game. “A-Town”, “Yacht Club”, “Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy”, and “Come Up Boys” put this formula on display and produce worthy tracks every time. I’m also surprised heavily by “Day Dreaming” and “Sweat”, two tracks that deserve play in the club or in a bedroom near you. They’re both THAT good.
You can see the care taken in crafting this album to be a cut above his last and that is to be commended. Just two issues when it’s all said and done.
“Ridiculous”, no matter how much (undeserved) hype many of the features had, DID NOT need that much time and arguably didn’t deserve to make the album. It really drags down what he was trying to accomplish here by having banger after banger.
Also, V12 put in some extra work for this one. However, some producers are meant to handle album brunts, others aren’t. I wouldn’t have made him my first choice with how similar some of the beats sounded. Drumma Boy coulda used more to do the way he was creating heat and Drama I’m sure had carte blanche of whoever he woulda’ wanted to use. Just a phone call away like Chingy, ya dig?
Despite all that, the bangers definitely outweigh the average and the bullshit and Drama has got a worthy successor to his previous studio album. Gangsta Grillz Volume 2 is focused, intense, hypnotic, and a look into the possible future of the rap game all wrapped in one. Steer clear of “Ridiculous” and you’ll find an awesome mix of artists and tracks. Definitely not a 4 star affair, a little more clean-up could have got it there, but a worthy addition to any Drama fan’s collection and a worthy banger for your CD or MP3 collection. This grill is gleamin’ and definitely a good look.
nappyPicks: “Day Dreaming”, “Sweat”, “Yacht Music”, “Gotta Get It”, “Come Up Boys”, “We Must Be Heard”, & “Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy”