August 11, 2008

Mobb Deep - Amerikaz Nightmare (August 10, 2004)


As I mentioned in my last Mobb Deep post, the resume that they sent around the industry, which was in the form of the Free Agents: The Murda Mixtape "album", secured Havoc and Prodigy a deal with Jive Records, a label that is much more known for cultivating pop stars that they are for their "urban" division: at one point they did hold the careers for the Clipse and A Tribe Called Quest in their hands (actually, I think Tribe still owes Jive Records one last album), but they have proven over and over again that hip hop has no place within the walls of Jive, unless your name is Justin Timberlake and you hold the world of popular music in the palm of your sweaty and filthy-rich hand.

Havoc and Prodigy gathered the troops and crafted Amerikaz Nightmare in a hurry, since they needed to make sure their name remained potent in the streets. They combined newly recorded, label-sanctioned tracks with older songs that they kept in their vault that were too "good" (you'll notice later that the quotes were placed there for a reason) to simply be leaked onto a mixtape. Production was handled by Havoc himself, as per usual, with their crony the Alchemist not far behind, but the Mobb also decided to branch out for a new sound, in an effort to prove to their new employers that, yes, they could sell records to the audience of the day, one that was fickle and was turning their collective head toward the Southern part of the United States map.

Ultimately, the experiment failed, and despite getting some decent press for the first single, "Got It Twisted", with its highly unorthodox Thomas Dolby sampling, Amerikaz Nightmare failed to perform to expectations, and the head of Jive ultimately decided that, perhaps, rhyming wasn't the strong suit of Havoc and Prodigy, and secured the duo jobs in the company store.

Was the general public wrong in its assumption that Mobb Deep's heyday had passed? Is Amerikaz Nightmare an unheralded classic that deserves your attention and, more importantly, your cold hard cash? Are Havoc and Prodigy so untouchable in the genre, thanks to their earlier efforts, that they're guaranteed a spot in the hip hop hall of fame, regardless of the questionable quality of their later output?

(SPOILER ALERT: No.)

1. AMERIKAZ NIGHTMARE
As if the Mobb were aware that third chances were rare in our chosen genre, they decide to skip the 'rap album intro' bullshit and jump right into the title track. Prodigy's verse is annoying and gimmicky, but not completely useless. Havoc's reference to having weapons in bulk as if they bought them at Costco is pretty funny, though.

2. WIN OR LOSE
The trend of enveloping an R&B/soul vocal sample within the instrumental itself has long since been out of fashion, and yet producers still insist on doing just that to this day. Even though the Alchemist, who produces this track, was one of the founding fathers when it came to that style of beatmaking, that doesn't make this song any less fucking terrible. It's such a waste of some halfway decent lines by Hav and P.

3. FLOOD THE BLOCK
Not that great, but it's really short (less than three minutes long), so it serves its purpose.

4. DUMP (FEAT NATE DOGG)
Prodigy addresses the fans directly, advising them to not confuse this album with "that mixtape shit" (he's probably referring to Free Agents: The Murda Mixtape, but the Mobb have so many mixtapes floating around with unreleased material that it's hard to tell), since "those were just scraps". I will acknowledge that all of these songs so far are much more polished than those "scraps", but none of them are on the level of their classic material, this track included. And who actually believed that having Nate Dogg do the hook for a Mobb Deep song was a good idea?

5. GOT IT TWISTED
The song itself is only okay, but the brilliant use of "She Blinded Me With Science" is the focal point anyway, as the New Wave hit is mutated into an ominous lurking beast. It's even more hilarious that Thomas Dolby himself called out Kevin Federline for unauthorized sampling, but praised Havoc and Prodigy (and the Alchemist) for their creativity, and also for actually paying to sample the goddamn song. Prodigy's complete dismissal of his enemy, bragging about how he would even kill them in front of his daughter, is completely insane: he states coldheartedly that, should blood spill onto her, "it's okay, she'll live". That's cold, dunn, but it's also the only proof so far that the Prodigy of Amerikaz Nightmare is the same guy that penned such winning prose for The Infamous and Hell On Earth.

6. WHEN U HEAR THE
Easily the best song on the album, and the only song on here that rightfully deserves its place in the Mobb Deep canon, regardless of Prodigy's ridiculous reference to new labelmate Christina Aguilera. Alchemist's Bataan death march of an instrumental will encode itself into your DNA, it's that catchy (and haunting as hell).

7. REAL N----Z
From the Nicholas Cage film of the same name.

8. SHORTY WOP
Bad enough to make you forget that these are the same guys that once brought us "shook Ones Pt. II" and "G.O.D. Part III", two songs that are completely unrelated to each other, by the way.

9. REAL GANGSTAZ (FEAT LIL JON)
Not even scribbled in crayon on the back of a kindergartner's construction paper project did a collaboration between Mobb Deep and Lil Jon sound like a good idea, but they went and did it anyway, since Smaller Jonathan was the flavor of the minute. I can't even picture this bullshit getting any burn at the clubs, unless we're talking about the deejay releasing deadly toxins into the atmosphere by literally setting fire to the 12-inch single. My God, this is bad. I can't even picture Hav and P keeping a straight face when they played the final product for their own label.

10. ONE OF OURS PART II (FEAT JADAKISS)
I believe the original song was a Jadakiss solo album cut. Sadly, Kiss fails to outshine his hosts on this track, which I would say is a waste of space, but it's not like the Mobb had anything better to fill the album gaps in with.

11. ON THE RUN
So you truly believe that nobody "could fuck with [your] rhyming", huh, P? Maybe ten years ago, you would have been right, but today (and in 2004), pretty much everybody can fuck with your rhyming, except maybe those kids that keep populating your favorite hip hop station's playlist. Maybe you should deflate that ego of yours a bit, dunn: it's hard to see the screen.

12. THROW YOUR HANDS (IN THE AIR)
Not even scribbled in crayon on the back of a kindergartner's construction paper project did a collaboration between Mobb Deep and Kanye West sound like a good idea, but they went and did it anyway. Although it is admirable that the Mobb even thought to include Kanye on their album after the lyrical thrashing 'Ye's boss Shawn Carter gave to Prodigy on "The Takeover", the beat sounds like something he dusted off after tripping over it on his cutting room floor: it even includes the same vocal sample commanding listeners to "throw your hands in the air" that he used for John Legend's "Used To Love U". The Mobb aren't the best type of rappers for this beat, and it becomes blatantly obvious once Havoc starts to rhyme.

13. GET ME (FEAT BIG NOYD & LITTLES)
Okay, this song is terrible, but I'm not totally convinced that its failure is due to Mobb Deep's influence. Amerikaz Nightmare places an emphasis on faster-paced instrumentals, probably because the South was starting to come up at the same time (which is why Lil Jon is on the damn album to begin with): this is mostly Jive's fault for forcing the Mobb to conform to the hip hop "norm" instead of letting them work. However, the Mobb don't get to escape unscathed: their rhymes still mostly suck.

14. WE UP
I actually liked this song, but the hook is pretty fucking awful. Still, I'll take what I can get at this point in the Mobb timeline.

15. NEVA CHANGE
I can't put my finger on it, but there's just something about this (terrible) song that makes me feel that it was a contractual requirement.

16. GOT IT TWISTED (REMIX) (FEAT TWISTA)
Here's a switch: the remix uses the same beat as the original, making Mobb Deep one of the only rap acts that forced Twista to conform to their sound, instead of vice versa. Perhaps because of that rule, Twista sounds awkward as shit, but still, not any worse than Hav and P, who changed their lyrics (along with their shirts) for the occasion. This song just isn't very good at all.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Although Havoc and Prodigy endure a grueling effort to prove their worthiness to their new employers, Amerikaz Nightmare is ultimately a complete nightmare to listen to. None of it is especially radio-friendly, which was essentially the kiss of death when it comes to Jive Records: the label terminated its contract with the duo the moment that someone else expressed even a hint of interest. In addition, only a couple of the songs actually appeal to the audience they've somehow maintained since the days of The Infamous, although that group's numbers have dwindled, at least according to the national census taken in 2003. All in all, Amerikaz Nightmare proves that Mobb Deep was/is a lost cause.

BUY OR BURN? You really shouldn't buy this disc. If you already bought it, you should throw it away. If you already burned it, you should thank the supreme being of your choice that you didn't waste the money, and then throw it away. Other than the song listed below, the disc is completely worthless. Yeah, I said it.

BEST TRACKS: "When U Hear The"

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Read all of the Mobb Deep-related write-ups by clicking here.

5 comments:

  1. cant believe you dont like 'win or lose' or 'throw your hands.' i thought both were up there with 'when u hear that,' which, i agree is the best on the album.

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  2. Got It Twisted remixed w/ Bob Marley:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SxKvQNyGXDQ

    frankly, after murda muzik I stopped listening to the mobb, but I found that remix catchy as fuck. then, after hearing p's 'it ain't nuttin she'll live' verse there I immediately wanted to smash a 40oz over a nun's head or something (I was listening to my ipod on my way to church). it was that gangsta.

    you coulda left that amongst the 'best tracks.' btw glad to be one of your to readers.

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  3. TheBlackCrackerAugust 11, 2008

    Mobb Deep 1993-2001, plus the Prodigy solos is all I can deal with. I did buy this album and was ampped up that the Mobb was putting out a new album. I brought this on the day it was released along with Shyne's 2nd album. Both of the albums were trash and I threw them both out two years ago when I threw out some of my worst cds.

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  4. A.N. wasn't thaaaat bad. It wasnt on the level with anything they did before it, but in itself, wasnt that bad. I found the intro track incredibly raw, the singles were dope, the collabs sucked (except Twista).

    Your review of Keith Murray was correct though. Gag

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  5. Phil Watts, jr.August 14, 2008

    "I need a bitch like Christina Ag-Uh-Larry for a broad/you know I'ma splag that--she dyin' for a thug!"

    ReplyDelete