March 8, 2010

Reader Review: Beanie Sigel - The B. Coming (February 22, 2005)

(One of the artists that I've had a problem focusing on is Beanie Sigel, late of Roc-A-Fella Records and currently known as a Jay-Z shit-talker (even though he was the only other rapper to appear on American Gangster, but I digress). While I try to find my motivation (I think I may have left it in the trunk), A.R. Marks picks up the slack and reviews Beanie's third album, The B. Coming. Enjoy!)

Few rappers are as unchallenged in their claims to hostile street-oriented activity, as it were, as Beanie Sigel. In fact, there are only a few widely-known rappers who have experienced as much jail-related career trouble as Sigel; Shyne, John Forté (as Max has often lamented in his Fugees reviews), DMX, and Black Rob. Also, C-Murder. And Mystikal. Okay, maybe there are more than a few. But the fact remains that Beans is one of the best rappers who've ever traded pen strokes and lyrical bars for pinstripes and bars of iron (zing!). On intermittent intervals - that would be between stints eating slightly better food than the military gets and carving shanks out of plastic utensils and what have you - Beans took the time to show the world his lyrical skills during the heyday of the Roc-A-Fella Records dynasty, shining on tracks next to Jay-Z (most frequently) and a whole shit-ton of other hip-hop stars in the process.

Unfortunately, Beanie Sigel's potential to be truly remembered in hip-hop has always suffered, due to his tendency to release subpar albums. Sure, they have their bright spots, but Sigel need only look to the quality of most of his releases to find an answer to his recent questions about why Jay-Z's own albums always overshadowed those of everyone else on the label.

Ironically, the best album (by far) that Beanie Sigel has released in his entire career (oh, did I give the review away?) was released not on Roc-A-Fella, but on the very, very short-lived Dame Dash Music Group (and distributed by Def Jam). Actually, The B. Coming was the only full LP released on the label. (The late Ol' Dirty Bastard's Ason Unique was supposed to be released on this label as well, but we all know how well that worked out for Russell's estate.) This was in 2005, when Beans was entering (at that point) the longest jail stint of his rap career: a year and a day, plus what would turn out to be a couple of additional months for hogging too many books from the book cart. Still, at a time when the Roc was on the verge of breaking up, Sigel's The B. Coming captures a snapshot of each working part of Roc-A-Fella Records.

The result?

The first single from the album, with a jazzy, downbeat instrumental by Heavy D (yes, that Heavy D) became a major selling point for the record, and in a savvy move, it was the first song on the album. The singer on the hook brings a perfect compliment to the wailing saxophone refrain; with Beans spitting semi-crazed, desperate but insightful lyrics, the whole track has a dark, gritty 1980's vibe, and I mean that in a good way.

A slightly bouncier, but no less soulful, Aqua instrumental (he also produced Hov's “My 1st Song,” and musically, there is a resemblance) finds Beans alongside two of his (at the time) State Property cohorts. Sigel and Freeway make you believe their stresses, but Chris comes off like a constipated version of the host (or a bland version of Sticky Fingaz from Onyx): this is before he became a mini-Jay-Z, of course.

The jazzy bent of the album continues, this time courtesy Bink! of The Blueprint fame (why didn't that guy end up producing for Slaughterhouse or Royce da 5'9”?). Beans spits a double-time flow, tearing up the hypnotic jazz loop, drums that almost sound scratched in, and a punctuating bass that reaches to the back of your skull. Redman is no slouch behind the mic, but Beans eradicates his guest.

Over fierce breakbeat drums and a characteristic slow-drone melody, Peedi and Sigel ride the rhythm flawlessly. The subject is your basic gun talk, but the wordplay exhibited is more than entertaining . It's almost enough to rival the speed-rap capabilities of the other invited guest, Twista, who pops in at the end of the song to bat some jaw-dropping cleanup.

It's too bad Snoop only did the chorus on this Neptunes-produced cut, because it sounds like exactly the kind of smooth track he could have tightened up: a jazzy, coasting affair with some laid-back xylophones and rolling synthesizers. Then again, given the hook, he might have decided to sing over it instead, so maybe this is a good thing. Either way, Beans makes the song his own – perfectly - with a smooth flow that never turns too sweet, pulling a B.I.G. in terms of both delivery and wordplay, with Snoop Dogg's chorus and bridge as the perfect counterpoint.

So you might be starting to think the high number of guest appearances on The B. Coming is getting tiresome. Well, fuck you, because the quality of the guest appearances stays pretty fucking consistent throughout. This trippy, DJ Scratch-produced ode to codeine and liquor sounds like it was tailor-made to feature Bun B, and the rapper actually kind of outshines his host with a vivid story of his first time sampling the “drank” before engaging in a point-for-point lyrical exchange between himself and Beans. Additionally, the hook, which is done by an uncredited singer, is smooth as shit and it, along with the Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley references in Sigel's second verse, ensures this will serve equally well as a weed song: just replace “sippin” with “puffin'” and “rain” with “haze” and you're good.

Okay, now you're officially allowed to start feeling weary of guest spots. Young Chris was completely unnecessary on this song, let's be honest. He takes the otherwise palatable slow-funk beat and bogs it down into something that lacks momentum. Sure, Beans keeps his contributions interesting, what with the shameless belittling of his main squeeze, the crunching synth and bass, and the catchy chorus, but skip to the next track right after his two verses. Seriously.

This soul-based Ty Fyffe track was always a little too slow for my taste; too high-pitched for real head-bobbing, too squeaky clean to be considered a truly soulful Ghostface or Scarface track, and too overloaded with Rell and someone named Melissa Jay's overzealous vocal theatrics to be taken too seriously.

Right back on track with the album's only Just Blaze cut, but what a cut it is. After a mood-setting intro that you're not sure what Just used to sample, or how much of it he really produced himself (in a good way), the track dives into a dark funk concoction of vocal and musical effects around a repeating violin sample that sounds like it was chopped into a million pieces and reassembled; you don't have to listen too hard to hear that the producer actually molded two distinct beats, a short bridge and a longer interlude, into one single sonic creation. Beans produces a mood-perfect story of jilted love at the hands of a longtime girlfriend, and wisely resurrects the best two-thirds of Brand Nubian to bring a closure to the track.

This is one of the few tracks without guests (a singer clearly appears, but is not credited). The darkly compelling soul soundscape moves Beans to playing the “Regrets” card, spilling heartfelt troubles. A rolling piano set over a slower, darker chord, with subtle undertones of other instruments laid in at times, perfectly suits the lyrical content.

Crakk's second guest appearance on the album follows a similar formula to his first, only much, much more gully. The marching piano chord sounds like steel, and the overall effect of the relentless lyrics, violin backing and military drumline is that of imminent violence.

Coming on the heels of some forgettable song off of one of his past albums, this jazzy hardcore 1980's- style update is like the evil (goateed) twin of “Feel it in the Air”. The free-flowing saxophone sounds like a grittier version of what Kanye West did on Common's “Real People” (from BE) that same year, but the two songs share no other similarities. Sigel is pretty impressive lyrically, which is typical of The B. Coming; O & Sparks don't even sound too out of place, if you disregard the fact that they sound completely interchangeable.

One of my favorite joints on the album. This isn't an 2005-era Kanye West soul creation, but it may as well have been. Buckwild, who one could argue is one of the godfathers to the sound presented by 'Ye, Dilla, Black Milk, and 9th Wonder, lays out an exceedingly smooth instrumental, layering Rell's extended vocal arpeggios over a bouncy bass, subtle orchestral elements and a drum loop straight from the 1990s, while Beanie Sigel spins past experiences and tales into a vivid story of redemption, keeping his scheme and flow flawless the entire way through. Shiiiieeet.

The following songs are considered to be bonus tracks on The B. Coming.

Technically a bonus, so “Look At Me Now” is supposed to be the last song, which is a formidable closer indeed. Still, even the extras are just as good as anything else on The B. Coming; once again, Kanye West's influence pops up where he doesn't, as former West mentor and O.G. Bad Boy Hitman D-Dot (also known as The Madd Rapper) pops up to pull a fantastic DJ Premier impression out of his cap. This is something that The Notorious B.I.G. would almost certainly have been spitting over if he'd lived long enough, and with Sigel and Jay-Z going in side by side with flawless flows, you could almost hear Biggie's voice over this shit.

Now normally I'm no fan of Cam'ron, but over this Neckbones-supplied redux of that famous Bon Jovi song (guess which one!), the former DipSet / Roc-A-Fella camp leader (back then anyway) sounds awesome. After Beans spits two tense verses, interspersed with a chipmunk-soul Bon Jovi sample as a hook, Cameron Giles comes in and catches complete wreck with a quick 16 bars á la Inspectah Deck on the Wu-Tang Clan's “Hollow Bones.” Feel free to get your rocks, ready, 1980's fans: this is my favorite version of this song in any musical genre.

FINAL THOUGHTS: The B.Coming is a masterpiece comprised of any and all of Sigel's connections to his camp, plus a few more, lacking only a few of the artists who were signed or in the process of being signed to the Roc at the height of Jay's multi-million-dollar superstar midlife crisis. I admit that when the album came out, I was miffed by the sheer volume of guest appearances, but I was - and am still - struck by the cohesion and depth present, considering that it was recorded prior to Sigel beginning a jail stint (which may help explain the number of guests) and released during said prison term, to boot. In retrospect, though, I can say I'm glad Beanie Sigel included as many Roc rappers as he did,. Sure, I would have liked to hear M.O.P. over “Tales of a Hustler pt. 2” instead of O & Sparks, or Joe Budden rip up “Can't Go On This Way” next to Beans and Free instead of Young Chris, or even just Kanye instead of Young Chris on “Oh Daddy” (not to mention Kanye producing instead of Ty Fyffe, but you get my point). But I'm still glad to hear Cam'ron and Beans on a great, authentic Roc-A-Fella-era soul song, Peedi Crakk and Twista trading speed-freak flows, and Sigel shining over truly soulful/jazzy production, and you should be too.

BUY OR BURN?: If you're even still reading, you don't need me to tell you.

BEST TRACKS: "Purple Rain," "Bread & Butter," "Flatline," "Look At Me Now," "It's On," "Wanted (On the Run)"

-A.R. Marks

(Huh. Maybe I should actually listen to this one. Be sure to leave some comments below, and if you think you could provide better commentary for an album of your choice, let me know by shooting me a message at the e-mail in the top right, or you could even hit me on Twitter.)


  1. this album is straight garbage

  2. I could never get into Beanie, always seemed like a shitty, budget version of Raekwon. As for this album, 20 guest verses or hooks on a solo album and it's supposedly a masterpiece?! Something doesn't quite sit right with that..........

  3. BELIEVE ME FOLKS, BEANS HAS PRODUCED BETTER THAN WHAT'S ON THIS ALBUM. Beanie's best album, IMO, is his very first. This album sounded too much like a.....................dare I say.........................Jay-Z album and that 2004-2005 period was very lackluster for the Roc. Enjoyed your review.

  4. fuck you all niggaz...beanie is straight crack just like raekwon ! beans is one of the best doing it and all his albums are solid as fuck! u niggaz hatin on a real artist who can spit!

  5. zOMG teh Beane Sigel is teh b35t rupper evar in teh world, but all kidding aside this album is not that good...just sayin'

  6. I dont like that reader reviews supporting your favourite shitty album, dont need to read this... all reader reviews conclusion are like: buy this album because I like it a lot (of course if you don't you wouldnt done this fucking review fool)

    (I'm from Spain, sorry for my english)

  7. oli - To be fair, that's exactly what I asked for: people to write about albums that they love that they feel others should explore. However, there are a good number of Reader Reviews where the listener ends up not liking the disc very much. That's what these reviews are: one person's opinion. I just appreciate that there are folks that are so passionate about music that they are willing to write about it and try different things outside of their comfort zone.

    Thanks for reading!

  8. I don't agree, this album kinda sucked..

  9. LOL at all you NY faggots hating on Beans. Eat a dick you rats-for-pets having ass faggots

  10. This album wasn't that good to me. Beans kinda fell off a little from how good he was on The Truth and The Reason.