Let me get one thing off my chest real quick that might get all two of you readers a little bit heated. Master P and his No Limit Records did not destroy hip hop. What they actually managed to do is pull off a successful small guerrilla insurgency that would help weaken its defenses pretty badly. What is left of that label today is a shadow of the exploitation system that it was before.
One of its former members, New Orleans artist Michael "Mystikal" Tyler (who joined up rather late in the label's history), must have seen the writing on the wall, as he decided to venture out without the further aid of Dancing With The Stars' Master Percy Miller and (most of) his drones for his fourth album. Needless to say, this ended up being a very smart business move. (This wasn't overly difficult for him to do: Mystikal was already signed to Jive Records, and his deal with No Limit was merely an addendum to that contract, so when he shifted back to exclusively Jive for his fourth album, nobody gave a shit.)
Approximately ninety percent of No Limit’s roster was garbage at the label's high point, but Mystikal was a standout because:
1) He yelled loudly when he rapped. (Hey, it works for M.O.P.)
2) He had a cool name that was intentionally spelled incorrectly.
3) He could actually rap.
4) He had a very raw and unique style.
As you know, Let’s Get Ready was huge commercial success for Mystikal, as well as for the young production team that produced the project's lead single. (I won't name them just yet, for the sake of holding back one piece of intriguing information for the lone person who doesn't know who I'm talking about.) Let’s Get Ready sold over two million copies (Drake isn't even doing those kind of numbers today), and when I heard him on the Yelawolf’s recent LP Radioactive (seriously, stay away from this album), I wondered why Mystikal was never forced upon the masses, like, say, Nelly, or some other Southern/Midwest cornball who he was way more talented than.
Then I remembered how he was recently released from prison after having been sentenced for sexual assault and extortion (yes, I now feel dirty reviewing this album).
But all issues aside, everyone deserves another shot at life, and as long as Mystikal isn’t doing it anymore, I guess I can live with listening to Let's Get Ready. So let’s get to the music, so that I can go to the local parish and ask for forgiveness for listening to this sooner rather than later.
1. READY TO RUMBLE
Wasn’t there some NBA Jam-like boxing game that shared a same name as the title of this song? I think a dude had an afro or something on the cover art. Anyway, the first thing that comes to mind when hearing this track is the fact that Mystikal wasn't the only member of No Limit to jump ship tank (see what I did there?): production team The Medicine Men, made up of KLC, Mo B. Dick, Craig B., and Odell, were formerly Master P's in-house producers Beats By The Pound, also known as the underpaid and overworked folks responsible for both the best and the worst No Limit tracks up to this point (as they produced nearly every single one of them). They most likely received a real, actual paycheck for producing this, as well. As for Mystikal, he had some cringe-inducing misogynistic rhymes mixed in amongst his tough talk.
2. SHAKE YA ASS (FEAT. PHARRELL WILLIAMS)
Those "unknown" producers I mentioned in the introductory paragraphs that created for this smash hit? The Neptunes, obviously. A gold star for all who answered correctly! Pharrell and Chad are responsible for what ended up being the biggest single of Mystikal's entire career, and conversely, Michael is responsible for one of The Neptunes' biggest breaks. You already know the song even if you've never listened to a single note, but now that you know why the man went to prison, it's harder to actively enjoy it.
Another Neptunes cut, this one sounding more like Noreaga’s “Superthug” (which they produced as well) if a sexual offender was rapping. (I understand how difficult it is now for an unbiased jury to be selected: my own review is tainted because of his past felony.) Listening to the first three tracks, I bet that the district attorney was easily able to build a case against Mystikal. I imagine the plea they offered included a vague threat to play this album to the jury unless he played ball.
4. DANGER (BEEN SO LONG) (FEAT. NIVEA)
I loved this song when it came out. It featured Tarius Nash (The-Dream) and Lil' Wayne’s baby mama Nivea on hook duties alongside a dope beat from The Neptunes. I am not going to push rewind to hear the lyrics I am missing right now, because I swear that I heard an entire second verse that would offend me, but still. (Fans of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart may also have newer, fonder memories of this track, thanks to John Oliver's substitute-hosting duties over the summer.)
5. COME SEE ME (FEAT. DA BRAT & PETEY PABLO)
The track starts out with Da Brat claiming she has Mystikal's back in some tough talk-type way. Was that supposed to intimidate me, or better yet, anyone? Another felon-slash-artist that didn't experience a lengthier round of success in hip hop, Petey Pablo, is also featured on “Come See Me” (he recently caught a case for gun possession). A lot of tough talk on this one, but not too much misogyny, actually (maybe because Da Brat was also a featured player?). The track was cool, produced by P.A., a crew that basically put Yelawolf on before his Shady Records deal. He's also produced some dope beats for a lot of other Southern artist who you might know (I was asked to look some examples up, but I really didn't feel like it: Google is your friend, folks). Now what you really know about the dirty South?
6. BIG TRUCK BOYZ
KLC of the Medicine Men produced this banger. Unfortunately, though, it’s about a vehicle, and I am never going to co-sign a track that talks about a car or a truck. Meh.
7. I ROCK, I ROLL
More misogyny (which is associated pretty heavily with hip-hop, I suppose), which is unfortunate because this beat is dope. If this is what Beats By The Pound had the potential to deliver consistently back then, instead of what they were told to create for an album for Sons of Funk, or Lil Soldiers...man, what a waste of talent.
8. U WOULD, IF U COULD
Wow, The Medicine Men are some dope producers! Mystikal, though, is surprisingly more on his emcee thing here. He showcases his unique style, and I have no problem with this. Reminds me of the days when major labels didn't force pop hooks onto rap songs in order to gain radio airplay.
9. MYSTIKAL FEVER
I was scared when I read the title of this track, but it bangs! Produced by Bink! (yes, the dude that was down with Roc-A-Fella back when Hova was starting beef), this features more threats from Mystikal, basically. Which is quickly becoming a recurring theme.
10. FAMILY (FEAT. LATRELLE)
The Neptunes provide the beat yet again, but this time their work behind the boards sounds like a Kelis throwaway. It’s too bad that this song isn't very good, as Mystikal actually isn't throwing around threats, nor is he reciting cringe-worthy lines about sexual acts. Man, this sounds so dated.
11. AIN'T GOING TO SEE TOMORROW
Earthtone III (better known as Mr. DJ and both halves of OutKast) are behind this one? I meant that to be a question, because this instrumental is garbage. Mystikal should also refrain from shouting everything on tracks where he means to come across as emotional and serious. Overall, this one just didn't work.
12. THE BRAIDS
Remember when Murs had that one song about his dreads? I thought of this because of the song title (and I also wanted to keep this review interesting by casually referencing entirely different artists). Anyway, this Earthtone III beat works much more than the one from the previous song. Of course, the other side of the coin, that means Mystikal isn’t saying much on here. He really does have a unique style, so it's unfortunate that he hasn't really done much with it so far.
13. SMOKED OUT
What in the demo tape is this? My God, this doesn’t sound like it was even intended for the album. He talks for over a minute before he starts rapping: yeah, I didn’t want to hear that, nor do I think you do. Plus, I must ask, why the hell are you so amped up on a song where you are “smoking out” ? This song will get 'deleted from device' very quickly.
14. MURDER III
I’m really scared just for the sake of the song title that this will be bad. Oh, wait, this is actually a serious topic that is close to home for Mystikal, because someone actually murdered his sister in real life, and...yeah, that’s a tough experience for anyone. Speaking of the song alone, the beat doesn’t match the emotion he is trying to convey. A bad pairing here. One of the rare missteps by The Medicine Men on this album.
15. NECK UV DA WOODS (FEAT. OUTKAST)
This was off of something else, I think? Some movie soundtrack or compilation (remember those?) that I am to lazy to find out about? (It appeared on the soundtrack to The Wood.) It features both halves of OutKast, but I should have a better memory of this track because, well, it features both halves of OutKast, and they are dope. Of course, the group doesn’t comes weak with their rhymes on here, but there isn't anything you would miss had you never added it to your OutKast playlist. Mystikal just doesn’t mix well with them, nor does he with the beat.
(Import versions of Let's Get Ready include the following bonus tracks.)
16. I'M THROWED OFF
This was hidden for a reason. This is a glorified demo, which “throwed” me “off”. Next!
17. LOOKIN' FOR ME
I didn’t know there was a huge demand for half-produced, rough-sounding Mystikal tracks. If so, I am not a part of that audience. After the song, the track segues into snippets featuring Petey Pablo, probably promoting an album or something. Oh, the jokes I could tell with this one. How did these two jailbirds come to occupy space on the same album? Is this the soundtrack to Life? Enough of this, I'm over it.
THE LAST WORD: Man! I thought this would actually be a pretty dope CD. I remember Mystikal being a pretty good rapper at one point, which he is, but he has little to say on Let's Get Ready, and when he does, the beats don’t match the material. It doesn’t help that I know he is a sex offender, and to hear him saying some of the lyrics on here by him doesn’t exactly help the man's reputation, nor sit well with my conscience. A very big positive though for this album, though, was the production. I really feel like The Medicine Men were standouts, and The Neptunes had three out of four tracks that banged, as well. I will really have to think hard about reviewing (Mystikal's follow-up) Tarantula for you, Max, because after this, I would rather walk away with no memory of this post and continue believing that Mystikal was underrated, rather than think about him in his current state. All two of you that are interested in hearing Let's Get Ready, stream the tracks somewhere and don’t waste your time downloading anything on here, as it’s really not worth it, and I am pretty sure you already have the two big singles from here, which you downloaded back when Napster was hot, all because some girls you knew loved “Shake Ya Ass” and you absolutely had to play it at every house party for the next two years (ah, good ol' college). Anyway, I feel really depressed after listening to this, so now it's time for some Drake.
(Questions? Comments? Concerns? Leave your thoughts below.)