(There has to be a few of you who hope every day that a Cam'Ron review runs on the blog, right? Well, today isn't really that day, but until someone submits a write-up of their own, you'll have to make do with Taylor K.'s Reader Review for Jim Jones and his third album, Hustler's P.O.M.E. (Product Of My Environment). Leave your thoughts for Taylor K. below.)
E1 Entertainment is a worldwide entertainment company: it has released the television show Babar on DVD, produces other shows such as Rookie One, and even doubles as a reputable record label, distributing albums from the likes of Styles P. (of The Lox), among others. But one has to wonder how the company got its start.
Let's go back now, to 2006, when E1 was operating under the name Koch Records, and an artist named Jim Jones was still signed to the label. He's a rapper affiliated with the Harlem-based group The Diplomats (they also classify themselves as a movement, and go by the abbreviated name DipSet, so it just depends on how you wish to refer to them at any given time); in fact, he was one of the three core members of the crew, alongside Juelz Santana and the group's ringleader, Cam'Ron.
Koch was best known at the time as a graveyard (hence my continuing to refer to it as “the Koch graveyard”, in case you two hadn't figured it out) that almost exclusively signed artists well past their prime, such as Master P and KRS-One: it even had a hand in distributing projects from the once-almighty Death Row Records after their deal with Interscope blew up in their faces. They also weren't doing all that well when Jim Jones released his first solo effort for them, On My Way To Church, in 2004. In fact, even with the mild hits Wikipedia claims his first two albums cultivated (although you would be hard-pressed to remember any of them, except maybe that one that ripped off Eazy-E), his status on the label was rather questionable until 2006, when he struck it rich on his third album, Hustler's P.O.M.E. (Product Of My Environment) (rappers and their acronyms, right?).
The album's success was unexpected: critics and fans from all around trashed the project. But it contained a single hit song, one that would elevate both Jim Jones and Koch / E1 to bigger and better things: “We Fly High”, which you may remember as a rather large radio hit. Subsequently, Koch / E1 suddenly had the cache to sign bigger names and ultimately break out of that “graveyard” mold. Jim Jones even scored a promotion to Vice President of the label when all was said and done.
But did Hustler's P.O.M.E. (Product Of My Environment) really make Koch, or was Jim Jones's success a fluke? It's not as though he was able to ride the wave to more hit singles or anything (and his appearances on VH-1's Love and Hip Hop don't count, obviously).
1. INTRO (FEAT. MAX B)
As expected, a rap album has to start with a rap album intro, especially one where Jim Jones spouts the truth and sets the mood for said rap album. I don't know why artists feel the need to have intros on their albums: maybe their listeners don't have an idea of what would constitute a first song? Since this runs for five minutes, this should be classified as an actual song. Although it's admirable that he tries to incorporate religion into his standard-issue hustler stories, the ad-libs flat-out ruin it. That, plus the fact that he sounds like he's speaking random thoughts that will suddenly make sense later. Hey, at least he gets points for trying, right? Right?
2. SO HARLEM (FEAT. MAX B)
More like “so weak”. Over a generic Chink Santana beat, Jim Jones tries to show that he's so Harlem by boasting about his lifestyle, how tough he is, how he gets money, how some of his homeys died, and how cold his life is. To be honest, I've heard the exact same story elsewhere, and I can understand how hard the life can be, but what makes Jim Jones's story any different?
3. BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY (FEAT. MAX B)
Uses the same Yvonne Fair “Let Your Hair Down” sample as Jay-Z's “Where I'm From” (and, for that matter, Fat Joe's “Bad Bad Man”). Jim goes into one of his typical hustler stories where something goes wrong, and then turns it into how The Diplomats are in charge and how you should not mess with Jim Jones or else you'll get brutally murdered in seven different ways. To be fair, the Jim Bond beat is infectious and entertaining, but it also makes me want to listen to “Where I'm From” again. Also, Max B. is a terrible singer.
4. EMOTIONLESS (FEAT. JUELZ SANTANA)
Over an admittedly cool organ beat (credited to both Chink Santana and Broken Equipment Productions), we get a collaboration with fellow DipSet member Juelz Santana, one where both participants try to show as little emotion as possible. Emotion is the reason there's music in the first place: it's one of the things that allow us to express and create art. However, “Emotionless” is the best way to describe Jim Jones on this track, as he goes through his usual religion-slash-hustling tales: I'm convinced he has never lived a good day in his entire life. At least Juelz Santana steps his game up by including metaphors and pop culture references (although I find him to be not all that talented to begin with).
5. REPPIN' TIME
The Runners are an overrated production group, so it's no surprise that they give the listener an overrated beat with no musical qualities at all. Jim Jones shouts all over this track, which means that he was at least alive during the recording process. This may be the perfect song for jackasses to show off their fancy cars, jewelry, and wads of cash, as it contains tons of materialistic boasts. Take that, lower- and middle-class!
6. PIN THE TAIL (FEAT. CAM'RON & JUELZ SANTANA)
The mandatory DipSet posse cut. One things for certain: these three guys are tight enough to provide a good posse cut, right? Wrong! While it's admirable they're trying to have fun rhyming about women and trying to have sex with them, the Critical Child beat, with it's seriousness and general crappy demeanor, ruins everything. Jim Jones is unimpressive, too: if I had to rank the verses, I'd rank Cam'ron first (mainly because of his unique flow and the fact that he's actually trying to come up with clever rhymes), Santana second (because of his pop culture references and metaphors), and Jim Jones a distant third. I suspect that none of them will be winning a rap competition anytime soon, though.
7. GET IT POPPIN' (FEAT. JHA JHA & PRINCESS)
The beat is annoying, and Jha Jha is just a terrible rapper. I don't know how else to describe it, but I truly dislike hearing her talk money and sex in the most generic way possible. At least the other guest, a rapper named Princess who I'm certain has never made any other appearances, provides “Get It Poppin'” some substance, with a verse that shows an admirable rapping style and an infectious flow. Oh, and Jim Jones is on here, too.
8. MR. COOL
Rasputin's Stash is so getting paid for that “Mr. Cool” sample. Oh wait, no he isn't, because this skit is only like eight seconds long. Sorry!
9. WE FLY HIGH
The song that launched Jim Jones's career, and I can understand why: his rhymes are infectious and simplistic enough, celebrating the high life in a way that no other song did at the time. As a plus, the Zukhan Bey beat meshes with the lyrics in ways I didn't even think were possible. Clocking at three minutes and fifty-six seconds, it's almost as though Jones specifically crafted this one song for radio airplay. However, it's far from the best song ever recorded. It received a crazy amount of airplay around the 2006-2007 timeframe (well, this version, one of its inevitable remixes, and Jay-Z's Jim Jones dis track that borrowed the beat, resulting in Jones somehow still getting paid off of it – what the hell, Hov?), but after that, I never heard this track again until just now. How can a song have that much of an impact and then just vanish from public consciousness?
10. VOICEMAIL SKIT
At least previous DipSet albums contained voicemail skits that featured actual voicemails: this interlude is a fake recorded in the studio.
11. LOVE MY LIFE (FEAT. MAX B)
Jim Jones tries to convince people to love his life, pitching the idea of a listener caring about his fast, hard life, with its hustling, expensive sports cars, and religious questions. Suffice it to say, nothing on here will make you love his life.
12. VOICEMAIL SKIT, PT. 2
E1 should release the second season of Babar on DVD. I would buy ten copies of that right now if I could.
13. WEATHERMAN (FEAT. LIL' WAYNE & STACK BUNDLES)
The forecasts provided on “Weatherman”, whose title makes it sound like a terrible Anchorman spinoff, are entirely ridiculous: if it were raining money from the skies, then the economy would be impacted, and if it were snowing cocaine, society would surely come crashing down.
14. DON'T PUSH ME AWAY (FEAT. RELL)
This song has an amazing Mercury beat, with a soulful vibe and general lack of a generic flavor: it could be described as a masterpiece when compared to all of the other beats on here. The lyrics should be about Jim Jones realizing that his chosen lifestyle could be seen as a repellent by certain parties, but instead he just raps and ad-libs about the high life. As usual. Rell's singing is amazing, in that he has a beautiful voice and he follows the song's theme, thus barely saving it from the abyss that it could have fallen into. Overall, a good song.
15. POUR WAX (FEAT. HELL RELL)
What a waste of Hell Rell. He should be given a proper showcase for his crime tales: that would be preferable to hearing him over some shitty generic beat from our host. Is this album over yet?
16. FREEKY ZEEKY SKIT
17. DON'T FORGET ABOUT ME (FEAT. MAX B)
Jim Jones tries his best to get people to remember him, but dude, it's too late for that. Also, Max B. is a terrible singer.
18. I KNOW
The intro may suggest otherwise, but “I Know” is all about Jim Jones, the street life, his life in the streets, how he grew up in the streets, and how hard it is to grow up in the streets. He does make some interesting points, and the Chink Santana beat is pretty good, but I was waiting for him to talk about something specific, and that never happened.
19. MY LIFE
The intro to “My Life” sounds so similar to the previous song, even though Chink Santana's work on the beat is different. At least Jones titled after something the song happens to actually be about this time around: yes, he's still rapping about his lifestyle and everything that allegedly entails, but at least he seems somewhat energized. If I were Koch, I would have released “My Life” as a single, and then shelved the rest of the album, since the rest of it sounds indistinguishable anyway.
20. CONCRETE JUNGLE (FEAT. MAX B, DR. BEN CHAVIS, NOE & RELL)
At last, we've reached the end of Hustler's P.O.M.E. (Product Of My Environment), where we find one of the project's finest beats: with its simplistic drums and soulful organs, it comes across as a gospel track set to a gangsta rap filter. The rhymes are a true representation of the concrete jungle, and I suppose it could be somewhat inspiring for people living in the ghetto (even though Jim Jones doesn't really contribute to the “inspiring” portion). The invited guests do good work, although I dislike NOE's Jay-Z-like biting, especially since he makes a mockery of Hova by not being lyrically able himself. Despite its noble intentions, “Concrete Jungle” was too little, too late.
FINAL THOUGHTS: In my opinion, the relative success of E1 was definitely brought upon by this fluke of an album. Jim Jones doesn't even try to provide lyrical or musical diversity for much of Hustler's P.O.M.E.(Product Of My Environment), choosing to rep Harlem (and, by extension, himself) instead. Much of this project can be dismissed as disposable hustler rap that absolutely anybody can make nowadays: this album is only “notable” because Jim Jones is a member of The Diplomats, whose leader, Cam'ron, has sold a bunch of records. I'd like to think it was because of the Dipset marketing machine (read: the fans) that Hustler's P.O.M.E. (Product Of My Environment) sold as many copies as it did: I don't believe Koch's marketing department was strong enough to parlay this into a success. But that is a tale for another time.
BUY OR BURN? Fuck no. Go get that Babar DVD instead!
BEST TRACKS: None.
(Questions? Comments? Concerns? Leave them below.)