September 18, 2009

Havoc - The Kush (September 18, 2007)


I didn't plan for this to happen, but sometimes things work out in a bizarre way. Exactly two years ago today, the less vocal half of Mobb Deep released his debut solo album, The Kush. With this project, Kejuan Muchita, who orders pizzas under the alias Havoc and then gives the wrong address, attempted to prove that his talents didn't lie exclusively behind the boards.

Havoc and his partner-in-rhyme Prodigy make up Mobb Deep, a New York-based rap duo who were seemingly untouchable in the mid-1990s, only to suffer through a series of bad business decisions which resulted in losing almost one hundred percent of their fan base. Cellblock P, who is still currently serving a prison sentence, was always considered to be the "real" rapper of the two, even though Havoc also spit quite a few bars, but Hav's magic resonated with the musical compositions he produced: with the skill of a master composer, he crafted dark, brooding masterpieces such as "Shook Ones Pt. II", "Give Up The Goods (Just Step)", "Nighttime Vultures", and, as most of my two readers would include on this list (as you picture me shaking my head with disbelief), "Hell On Earth (Front Lines)", with ease.

Prodigy had already ventured out of the box to release two solo albums, but Havoc was content with holding off until the fall of 2007, when the expectations would be so fucking low that he could do nothing but impress. To be fair, though, his rhymes have been steadily improving over the years: whatever water P has been drinking that caused his mouth to start saying some utterly stupid shit is having the opposite effect on Kejuan. As such, The Kush, Havoc's self-produced debut album released on Nature Sounds, was met with a surprising amount of blogger acclaim.

Surprising to me, anyway.

1. NY 4 LIFE
Thankfully, Havoc missed the exit to the rap album intro frontage road and drove directly to the first actual song on The Kush. If he truly has an icebox where his heart should be, as he claims on his reintroduction to his fast-dwindling street audience, then he has a serious medical condition that should be checked on. How is the man walking around? Hav's flow concerns me, as he already doesn't sound like the type of rapper who will be able to captivate an audience for the duration of an entire album, and the organ-driven beat is repetitive at best.

2. I'M THE BOSS
Havoc's obvious appreciation for A Tribe Called Quest's "Luck Of Lucien" (or, more accurately, "Forty Days" by Billy Brooks) has led to this track, The Kush's first single, which isn't really an homage: rather, Hav thought it would be funny to filter his sexist and violent thoughts through a happy-go-lucky sample. Oddly, this experiment actually works, even though he rhymes the phrase "sex tape" with itself on two occasions, which smacks of laziness.

3. BY MY SIDE (FEAT 40 GLOCC)
Yet another rap song about how the artist involved loves his weapons. Guest star 40 Glocc's description of himself "smoking on the cancer/fucking up my lungs" is almost poetic, and I'm completely serious when I say that. The beat is all types of blah, though, so both rappers don't sound as interesting as they might have otherwise.

4. ONE LESS N---A
Ridiculous title aside, this overly dramatic Havoc instrumental may have been a better fit for both halves of Mobb Deep, as this sounds like the kind of beat that Cellblock P of today tends to gravitate toward. Which is to say: it's alright, but it's not real. Sigh.

5. RIDE OUT (FEAT NYCE)
Even though Havoc adopts an appropriately threatening tone, Nyce's sing-songy hook is fucking hilarious, and I mean that in the worst possible way. My suspension of disbelief was completely shot after this track. Oh well.

6. BALLING OUT (FEAT UN PACINO)
This actually wasn't bad. Un Pacino's verse made me wish that somebody, anybody, from Infamous Mobb was available instead, but he still sounded okay, and Havoc's assertion that he's right where he's supposed to be, "like feng shui", and the fact that he is the first rapper in existence to admit that he isn't in the top five, makes this song feel like a refreshing splash of water on a hot summer's day in the front row of whatever incarnation of the Shamu show they have playing at Sea World these days. Also, entertaining as hell.

7. WHAT'S POPPIN' TONITE
I'm not going to say that Havoc shouldn't ever go to the clubs and get drunk like a normal person, but Mobb Deep's collective attempts at that elusive club banger have been spotty at best. This one doesn't shift the tide.

8. CLASS BY MYSELF (FEAT NITTI)
Unsure of why Infamous Mobb's Ty Nitty felt that he had to change his name to Nitti, but still: meh.

9. SET ME FREE (FEAT PRODIGY & NYCE)
Had Prodigy not appeared anywhere on The Kush, this album just wouldn't have felt natural. Unfortunately, all of the lyrics provided by this trio suck balls: as frequently mentioned in the past, Cellblock P has lost whatever spark he had behind the mic, and Nyce's verse is just boring. Sadly, Havoc's beat is really fucking good, which makes this shit even more of a letdown.

10. BE THERE
I kind of liked this one, even with Havoc's attempt to discredit the song with insanely stupid lyrics such as "it won't be long, like a monkey with its tail cut". The vocal sample woven throughout is much more haunting than it should be for a track this cheesy, but it helps make the song sound that much better.

11. HIT ME UP (FEAT UN PACINO)
This could have been worse, but that turn of phrase also implies this could have been a lot better. Like, for instance, if Havoc had deleted Un Pacino from the track entirely. But that's just me.

12. GET OFF MY DICK
Havoc gets more homophobic than usual and threatens to leave those who oppose him in hospital beds with colostomy bags attached. Which is really fucking gross, but you cannot deny that deft use of imagery. Too bad the track itself isn't deserving of any praise, so the effort was wasted. And with that, Havoc's solo debut is over. You just have to appreciate the economy of this project: had The Kush been as bloated as most rappers tend to make their debut albums seem, this would make me a lot more angry. As it is, I'm simply mildly irritated.

FINAL THOUGHTS: The Kush may have been highly anticipated ever since Prodigy dropped both H.N.I.C. and Return Of The Mac, but Havoc churns out a product that sounds as if he recorded all of it in the span of a weekend . Even though I consider him to now be a better rapper than Cellblock P (although there is no way that he could ever fuck with Prodigy back when his shit was tight, around the era of The Infamous and Hell On Earth), none of that newly formed skill set is to be found on The Kush. Instead, listeners are treated to twelve generic gangsta rap pieces with little to no relation to one another. As a hip hop veteran, Havoc should have much more to say, but maybe he felt like dipping his toes in the water first, instead of going balls-out. With the exception of a handful of tracks, The Kush is about as much fun to listen to as it is to watch paint dry after smoking the bunkest weed available in your dry town. The good news is that the best songs leave Havoc some room to take a mulligan, but we'll see how quickly he squanders that opportunity.

BUY OR BURN? Mobb Deep's remaining fans snatched this up as soon as it first leaked hit store shelves, but everybody else shouldn't give this a second thought. This is neither game-changing nor consistently entertaining, but fuck it, at least it's short.

BEST TRACKS: "I'm The Boss"; "Be There"; "Balling Out"

-Max

10 comments:

  1. I have to give Havoc credit for being a good beat maker/producer. But when it comes to lyrical content, he reminds me of Pete Rock. Actually he is suferring from Pete Rock/Dr.Dre syndrome, which is being a good producer, and having crappy lyrical content/flow. Anyways, the album recieves a B. I have to agree with Max, this album is not game changing or consistently entertaining. What Havoc needs to do is make an all instrumental album and have other artists rhyme over his music.

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    1. It'd be cool if he did like a Soul Survivor type thing but with Infamous era beats. I'd buy that immediately

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  2. Max, Mobb Deep are over, just move on and let Prodigy and Havoc play themselves out with mediocre album after mediocre album. Now get to that gut reaction of Kamaal the Abstract, if you really call yourself a Tribe fan!

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  3. Visit Novablast.blogspot.com

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  4. Kamaal the abstact please

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  5. Hey, I liked the Hell On Earth beat...it had a kind of depressing it's-fucked-here-nothing-is-ever-gonna-change fatalistic feel to it...
    Still waiting for Me Against the World, Max...and you better hurry up, you sure as hell took your sweet time with Dah Shinnin'...

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  6. First of all - Q-Tip made Give Up The Goods, do your math.

    Secondly - ALBUM SUCKS! I can't really understand how you've been thinking "buy or burn", 'cause I wouldn't recommend even "burn", shit is so wack, so uninspired, SO FUCKING AWFUL.

    Better get VLS "I'm The Boss bw Be Happy" so you'll have a couple of only decent tracks (or may I say decent beats?) off the album.

    And I'm Mobb Deep fan, don't get me wrong, but this staff is just poor, really.

    kormega

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  7. I am probably gonna get so much shit for this, but I actually preferred Havoc to Prodigy on Shook Ones pt. II

    I dunno, I just think his flow was tighter

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  8. I always thought Havoc sounded just as good as Prodigy for the most part of The Infamous. P had that thing where he'd try and rhyme two words that, when pronounced correctly, sound nothing alike, which always pissed me off.

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