May 6, 2008

For Promotional Use Only: Redman - Ill At Will Mixtape Volume 1 (March 13, 2004)


After Def Jam indefinitely shelved Reggie Noble's sixth CD, Red Gone Wild: Thee Album, Redman opted to keep himself in the public eye the best way a rapper can these days: he put out his own mixtape. He hooked up with some of his longtime weed carriers, found some original compositions (and swiped some timely instrumentals), and released the Ill At Will Mixtape Volume 1 on his own Gilla House label. It was met with critical praise, ostensibly because Redman is one of the better and most creative modern rappers of our time, but primarily due to the fact that no less of a supposed authority on hip hop culture than BET had informed Def Jam that the majority of their roster was no longer relevant to the current Rap City audience due to their median age, which has led to the unfortunate issue we still see today where the older (and in most cases, better) rappers have almost no marketing budget whatsoever, and as a result, sales of these older artists's albums have dipped, artificially insinuating that they are, in fact, not relevant to today's audience, when in reality nobody (outside of bloggers) is even aware of the new album's existence. The problem is that the label listened to the dollar sign: if BET wasn't willing to play the videos, no matter what they were paid (for those that don't know or are just very naive, BET and MTV are paid to play the videos by your favorite artist. They don't do that shit for free), for the likes of Redman, Method Man, and LL Cool J, then there was no reason to create a budget to produce a video in the first place.

Today's hip hop industry is a fucking shameful state of affairs, one that is even more traumatic for talented rappers who have the misfortune of still being signed to a major label. I'm going to end this intro by stating that it says a lot that Redman had to follow up this mixtape with a second volume before Def Jam would even consider thinking about possibly contemplating a release for album number six.

Sigh...

1. ILL AT WILL INTRO
I thought using the music from The Specials's "Ghost Town" was fucking brilliant, especially since it's such a good piece of music. This is just your usual mixtape introductory bullshit, but the background music makes it tolerable.

2. DA COUNTDOWN (SAGA CONTINUES)
On a mixtape that was created to advertise your upcoming (eventually, anyway) Def Jam album, maybe dissing Def Jam isn't the smartest career move. No wonder they shelved your disc for several years, Reggie! It had to be said, though; Def Jam doesn't know how to build artists anymore.

3. SEARCH 4 BARNEY (FREESTYLE)
This is just a cool-ass freestyle proving why Reggie Noble shouldn't be so goddamn underrated.

4. RED LITE DISTRICT (FEAT ICARUS)
Icarus comes pretty damn close to outshining Reggie on this short track. The beat could have been much better, though.

5. I C DEAD PEOPLE (FEAT 2PAC, THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G., BIG PUNISHER, & BIG L)
This song, supposedly produced by Eminem, is pretty audacious, utilizing vocal samples from deceased artists like Pac, Biggie, Big Pun, and Big L (that's a lot of "Big"'s in there) to make it sound like Reggie is participating in the best posse cut ever created, when in reality he's just having a spiritual experience in the booth, possibly caused by some very good (or very cocaine-laced) marijuana. It was supposed to appear on Red Gone Wild: Thee Album, but never did, possibly due to sample clearance issues, but probably because it would have been more than three years old when Red Gone Wild was finally released. He cuts the track off midway through, tempting listeners to buy the album to hear the rest, but if I remember correctly, the full track had already leaked well before this mixtape was announced. Still, it's an interesting song, if not a very good one.

6. GILLATIME (FEAT SAUKRATES)
Saukrates mentioning Archie Comics was pretty fucking funny, but Reggie referencing City Of God is priceless. If you haven't already seen that film, you're doing yourself a disservice.

7. WELCOME TO GILLA HOUSE
Meh.

8. DO YOU LIKE RAP MUSIC (SKIT)
...

9. BRICK INTENTIONS
Dr. Dre's "Bad Intentions" wasn't that great of a song to begin with, and, surprisingly, Redman doesn't really improve on it. It has to be due to the weak-ass instrumental.

10. YEAH! YEAH! (FEAT SNOOP DOGG)
Reggie swipes his own guest spot from Snoop's own mixtape series (he was going through the same label drama, but to much less of a degree, since he had The Neptunes on his side). Snoop may as well have been spitting to the score from Xanadu, the way he fucks up on the Rockwilder beat. However, since Rockwilder lives in Reggie's guest house, it makes sense that the beat fits him like a glove.

11. DON'T WANT IT WIT US (FREESTYLE) (FEAT ICARUS)
I've always hated the Busta Rhymes song "I Know What You Want" (featuring Mrs. Nick Cannon), although I will admit to liking the video, if only because it reminded me of A-Ha's "Take On Me"; as such, it was pretty fucking impossible for me to get into this track.

12. BRICKS STANDUP (FREESTYLE)
Reggie swipes "What More Can I Say?" from Shawn Carter, with great results. But what is the point of cutting off the song before the second rapper can properly start? You already stole the goddamn beat; may as well see things through.

13. ILL AT WILL OUTRO
More of "Ghost Town". Redman promises a second volume, and shouts out for Method Man at the very end, which led to high hopes (for me, anyway) that there would be a bonus track. No dice.

FINAL THOUGHTS: The Ill At Will Mixtape Volume 1 was a great way for Redman to stay in the loop; it helps that every track was brand-spanking-new, whether it was a freestyle or an original composition. Some of the beats he chose to rock over are questionable at best (and very fucking ridiculous at worst), but since Reggie is able to rhyme to almost any type of sound, I'm willing to let it go, with the exception of that Busta Rhymes track, which I will hold a grudge about until the end of time.

SHOULD YOU TRACK IT DOWN? Yes. This mixtape was more entertaining than his last real album, Malpractice. All it needed was a couple of Erick Sermon instrumentals and some guest spots from Meth and Keith Murray, and this would rank right up there with his proper catalog. Google it: it isn't hard to find.

-Max

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1 comment:

  1. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessMay 06, 2008

    This is a solid effort from Reggie. Definitely a better album than Malpractice and Red Gone Wild.

    What I really want to say is that Icarus is nice on the mic. I'd like for him and Starang Wondah to team up for a Revenge of the B-Squad/Weed Carriers album. I'm sure I could come up with some other worthy contributors to such a project.

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