October 18, 2008

My Gut Reacftion: Termanology - Politics As Usual (September 30, 2008)

When you skim through other hip hop blogs, it's inevitable that you'll start noticing the same up-and-coming rapper's name popping up with every third post: he'll have a "great" new song about growing up in the hood, or he'll appear on a massive posse cut with half of the fucking music industry (and you'll be intrigued as to how he ended up working alongside Bob Dylan, Prince, and the ghost of Elvis Presley), or he'll have a "street" single produced by DJ Premier. (That last point is inflexible: the song has to be produced by DJ Premier: it's a stepping stone that all artists eventually locate in the river, some sooner than others.)

For me, one of those rappers is named Termanology. Based in New York but bred in Massachusetts, Term has been releasing mixtapes pretty steadily for a few years now, and I have to admit, I haven't heard a single goddamn one of them. Seriously. I'm certainly not actively avoiding the man, folks, but there are a lot of rappers out there to follow, and I'm only one man. But after reading through the press release that Nature Sounds put out for Termanology's debut album, Politics As Usual, I was sufficiently intrigued, and a few of the folks that take the time to e-mail me about the blog convinced me to actively seek this disc out.

Politics As Usual features production from A-list talent such as DJ Premier (with three tracks), Pete Rock, and Large Professor, along with some questionable guest spots (considering some of the artists that I understand he's worked with before) and a short attention span: Politics As Usual is comprised of only twelve songs and an opening interlude. Such restraint is unusual in hip hop, especially from someone who is best known as a mixtape rapper, so it is both surprising and very much appreciated.

Let's see how this goes down.

1. IT'S TIME
This otherwise useless rap album intro is molded into a curiosity piece when you realize that it was produced by Easy Mo Bee. Where the hell has that guy been?

2. WATCH HOW IT GO DOWN
This is actually really good. What could have easily been one of DJ Premier's bargain-basement beats is taken to an entirely different level thanks to the presence of a melody, and Term sounds impressive on his first album track. It's such a strong start, you won't even mind that he swipes wholesale rhymes from Big Pun and The Notorious B.I.G.

3. RESPECT MY WALK
I found Buckwild's instrumental to be trying waaaay too hard. It's attempt at a majestic horn sound is undermined by both the inconsequential drums and Termanology's own rhymes. Sorry, but it's the truth: this song isn't very good.

4. HOOD SHIT (FEAT PRODIGY)
Some issues I had with this track: (1) At the beginning of the third verse, the music indicates that a mysterious third rapper was marked for inclusion (Havoc, possibly?); with the surreal musical adjustment that comes during Prodigy's first four bars, the song comes off as awkward. (2) Even Term seems to believe that Lil' Wayne is a serious contender for the Best Rapper Alive title? You gotta be fucking kidding me. (3) The Alchemist's beat is decent in spurts, but overall, kind of underwhelming. (4) Prodigy and Term aren't very impressive over the beat, either. (5) I like writing lists.

5. FLOAT
Meh.

6. PLEASE DON'T GO
The hook completely breaks this song. It also snaps the song's neck, severing the spinal cord, and leaves it to rot in hell. Otherwise, Nottz's fake-ass West Coast-sounding instrumental (by way of the East Coast) is quite appealing.

7. HOW WE ROCK (FEAT BUN B)
Having already heard Term over a Primo beat five tracks ago, I was more excited about hearing Bun B (from UGK) over DJ Premier's instrumental, and I was not disappointed. (Well, except maybe with the simplistic chorus.) Bun's references to the late Pimp C (whom he shouts out on every project he works on) and Barack Obama date this song severely (and it's a brand new fucking song!), but otherwise, both artists do some stellar work, and Primo's beat sounds like something he's been holding back on us ever since the last Gang Starr album.

8. DRUGS, CRIME, & GORILLAZ (FEAT SHEEK LOUCH & FREEWAY)
Nottz takes one of Chris Rock's funniest lines from Pootie Tang and plays it over and over again, over a generic-sounding beat, until the joke disappears into the mist. I suppose it doesn't really help that Term, Sheek (from The Lox), and Freebeard match the beat's intensity by also sounding rather generic. You would probably be better off renting Pootie Tang off of Netflix, in my opinion.

9. IN THE STREETS (FEAT LIL' FAME FROM M.O.P.)
Hi-Tek's beat is decent, but Term's lyrics were incredibly ignorant, to such an extreme degree that I was turned off from the song, and it's his fucking song. Lil' Fame fares much better, although Natural Born Killers is a rather old flick to reference: he may as well have mentioned Citizen Kane and Bringing Up Baby. Oh well.

10. SO AMAZING
Okay, the third and final Primo beat sounds more like the generic pap he sells off to third-rate rappers so that he can make his mortgage payments. On it, Term has dreams of grandeur, possibly delusional, in which he props himself up as the next big mainstream artist (he even mentions wanting to sign with Puff Daddy at one point: clearly he wrote this song back in 1994). This track isn't bad at all, but come on, Term: you can't actually expect that you'll move units when you align yourself with only veteran hip hop producers like Primo and Buckwild. You have to put some outright certifiable garbage on here, as well.

11. SORRY I LIED TO YOU
Large Professor provides a rather chilled beat for Term to apologize over, and although the chorus leaves a lot to be desired, the final product is actually really good.

12. WE KILLIN' OURSELVES (FEAT PETE ROCK)
Pete Rock both produces and provides the hook for this track, which attempts to be socially conscious, but is mostly preachy, thanks to Pete Rock's hook. It's definitely not a bad song, but if I wanted to be preached to, I would let the homeless man over by the liquor store yell at me for five minutes straight, and then leave a dollar in his collection plate, thanks.

13. THE CHOSEN (RESURRECTING THE GAME)
Havoc's beat is actually really fucking good, but I find it very strange that his partner in rhyme Prodigy opted to stick with the Alchemist (see "Hood Shit") instead of appearing on this track. It's probably for the best, as this turns out to be a fantastic way for Termanology to end his debut album.

THE LAST WORD: Politics As Usual isn't that bad. In fact, a handful of tracks are among the finest I've heard in all of 2008. Lyrically, Termanology fluctuates between highly lyrical and generic mixtape rapper #4080, sometimes within the same verse, but for the most part, his delivery is entertaining. The production team deserve to be seen more as co-stars than as mere collaborators, though, since I imagine this CD would sound like shit without the talent of, say, DJ Premier, behind the boards. (Term does heavily rely on Nottz for some unknown reason, though: hopefully that problem is corrected next time out.) Overall, a lot of this disc was pretty good, and I'll probably continue to spin it throughout the end of the year. Maybe I'll even try to track down one or two of his mixtapes: maybe one of my two readers can help me pick the best ones.

-Max

16 comments:

  1. was disappointed with this album...he just doesnt have the presence to carry a whole album especially when he sounds like he's whispering half the time

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  2. I can't believe you said at the end it wasn't bad! You made it sound pretty bad all the way through!

    What you said in the intro re mixtapes and too many rappers is so true. To be honest, even the track names put me off.

    I would want to hear the production form large pro, pete rock and premo but tbh i'd rather just listen to their own albums or something like the non phixion album!

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  3. I can't believe this guy did shit an album largely backed by Large Professor, Pete Rock & Premo. Kudos to him for realizing this was a good idea, I could just as easily have seen him running around with DJ Khaled and T-Pain.

    On another note, you've gotta review the blu & exile album.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpsBEjiIrsE
    ^^ one of his videos.

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  4. I also felt really underwhelmed by this album- it's one of those that sounds a lot better on paper. In the end, Termanology just isn't that great- kind of boring, and steals line too, not in a good way. It makes me wonder if there will ever be another illmatic-style album.

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  5. I'd say get 50 Bodies, because it has most of Term's best stuff on it. If not "Da Cameo King", is well worth your time.

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  6. After hearing this album, I thought that Term is a better ghostwriter than an MC.

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  7. Termanology is talented as hell IMO but it doesn't help when he "steals" Pun's flow sometiems. this album was good but could have been better IMO...

    anyways, for mixtapes, check out Hood Politics IV and V. oh yeah, and peep his ish on those two Statik albums!

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  8. Mr. AquariusOctober 21, 2008

    Not diggin' this record really. The lil wayne reference in track 4 was far more blasphemous than you let on, heh.

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  9. i'm guessing neither of You Two have heard this joint...

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  10. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Elzhi's the Preface if you havent already. By far the best album I've heard in '08....

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  11. no comments? I thought I had left one?

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  12. Pick "The Cameo King" or whatever it's name is...

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  13. Hood Politics IV is his best mixtape.

    Term has a nice flow, but his lyrics can be improved.

    He's a good artist but like I said: there's room for improvement.

    He needs to stop trying to sound tough though, sounds mad corny.

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  14. I guess I'll be nice since he's from by homestate, MA lol

    Joe Budden "Halfway House"
    Available Now!
    www.AmalgamDigital.com

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  15. Termanology obviously has what it takes to make a solid album but he ends up making a half ass one instead by trying to make a few radio singles and having a few tracks that sound like that played out stuff on the radio these days. 99% of Hip Hop artists dont release solid albums like they used to back in the days.

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  16. The guy always put me off by CONSTANTLY INSISTING that he is the new Jay-Z/Nas rolled into one, the "holy resurrection of Pun," about to put out the next Illmatic classic best album of the decade, etc. ... he's not as annoying as Saigon with that delusions of grandeur shit but then again he's not as good as Saigon on the mic either so there you go.

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