So why the fuck did it take me so long to write about his sophomore effort, Control Freek? The answer is twofold. Money is always an issue, of course: as I do truly try to support most, if not all, of the artists who appear on HHID, I tend to actually buy the albums before I write about them (except for what I can scoop up at the library, but this is Tash, folks; why wouldn't I buy this one?), and, as one can expect, it costs money to run a blog such as this. (Shameless plug: if you two would like to see more reviews of newer albums, please support
Secondly, and most tellingly, Control Freek was Tash's debut on Amalgam Digital (his last label home, Loud Records, folded in half like a Cirque de Soleil acrobat), and in an effort to promote the album to blogs (and, I expect, to radio stations), his new employers sent around the first single from the project, "New Bikini", which sounded...well, I'll get to it in a moment, but let's just say, had any of Def Jam's early singles for Wu-Massacre sounded that bad, they wouldn't have gotten my five bucks (thanks, Best Buy Reward Zone!) on opening day.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that E-Swift, his former bandmate in Tha Liks, handles a lot of the production behind the boards (Tash probably got a really good rate: the rest of the album is handled by people you'll never hear from again and, interestingly, Madlib's younger brother Oh No, carrying on 'Lib's Liks partnership), and his longtime coworker J-Ro, who, apparently, left the country after the crew's final album Firewater tanked on the Billboard charts (he now lives a quiet existence in Sweden, from what I understand), makes a couple of cameos. But the similarities to Rap Life are few: the guest list is, otherwise, filled with names that most hip hop heads won't be familiar with (save for Cypress Hill's B-Real and longtime stalwart, and the reason for Tash having a career in the first place, King T).
So did I do the right thing by waiting to pick up Control Freek?
Yeah, the jury's still out.
1. THE BOOK CH. 1
This intro, which is really just a brief verse from Rico, seems to set Control Freek up as a continuation of Rap Life in both production values and Tash's fun-loving lyricism. Could it truly be?
2. GO WEST (FEAT E-SWIFT)
Producer Josh G.'s beat (yeah, I hadn't ever heard of him, either) is promising enough to lift up your expectations for the rest of the album. Even without the hint provided by the song's title, the sound is so obviously West Coast that you'll feel a breeze coming in from the fucking Pacific. Tash's delivery starts off a bit more simple than I like, but he picks up steam pretty quickly, and his Cali anthem actually bangs. Not bad.
3. GET IT (FEAT DEL THA FUNKEE HOMOSAPIEN)
And then we're presented with this shit. A collaboration between Tha Liks and the Hiero camp sounds good on paper, but it's not something I ever cared to actually hear (mainly because, due to his recent output, I expect every song Del being featured on to sound like a Gorillaz track). J Beam's beat is fucking terrible, killing the momentum without even a sliver of a chance of recovery, and both Tash and his invited guest come across as not entirely sure of themselves. Groan.
4. HOW HI CAN U GET (FEAT B-REAL)
E-Swift's beat is barely there, and both Tash and B-Real sound as if they smoked several bowls and are trying to get over a rough night of drinking: their feelings come out in their respective bored and uninterested deliveries, as if they're trying to subliminally tell listeners that drinking and smoking are actually bad things. The only component I liked was the Redman sample in the chorus. Pass.
5. WET PAINT (FEAT KOKANE)
At least this one was alright. Kokane's hook is goofy, but it works, so no complaints there. E-Swift's beat is almost paint-by-numbers West Coast, though, so unlike “Go West”, this track is painfully generic. I may only believe this one to be alright because I didn't care for the previous two songs. Perhaps we'll never know.
6. PULL IT OUTCHA POCKET
This sounds like one of the worst songs from Tash's debut album. Which doesn't mean that it sounds better within Control Freek's historical context. Moving on...
7. STARTED WITH A BANG (FEAT FAMEUS)
Tash compares his life with his significant other with that of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee. Is he trying to imply that he has a huge cock and that his lady friend has contracted a form of hepatitis? Either way, Tash tries to branch out with a love rap (that ultimately deteriorates into a breakup), and his elasticity is appreciated, but the track is weak, and the hook from Fameus (really? That's how you want to spell it?) is terrible.
8. OBAMA SKIT
Rap Life featured a skit with “Bill Clinton”, so it makes sense that “Barack Obama” would make an appearance on Control Freek. It's amusing enough, but you won't listen to it more than the once, and that's if you don't cut it off halfway through the first time. At least the dig at Rush fucking Limbaugh was funny.
9. PUSH THE BUTTON (FEAT KHUJO GOODIE)
I realize it's entirely unfair to compare Control Freek to Rap Life, but it has to be said: Tash was able to wrangle both Big Boi and Andre 3000 onto his debut, whereas in 2009, he had to settle for a member of the Goodie Mob. Tash adapts to a Southern bounce flow pretty easily, but the song itself fails to connect with listeners, due to its tendency to suck balls.
10. A PENNY FOR MY THOUGHTS (FEAT SAMUEL CHRISTIAN)
Tash rides the J Wells instrumental like a log flume: occasionally bumping into the sides of the track, but ultimately having enough fun to warrant doing it again. I wish he hadn't relied too heavily on the R&B hook, though, since that was the weakest element of what is otherwise an average song.
11. WE DO THIS (FEAT J BEAM, KING T, & KNOC-TURN'AL)
Tash gets out his shovel and digs up the grave of Knoc-Turn'Nal's career, which took a turn for the worse after Dr. Dre stopped paying attention to him. This isn't a bad track, but you'll just be hungry again within an hour.
12. RIGHT/WRONG (FEAT A. JAMMALI & J-RO)
Tash convinces bandmate J-Ro to fly in from Sweden to contribute to Control Freek, which was entirely expected: the only surprise was how long it took the album to finally showcase a Liks reunion of sorts. Oh No's instrumental is too mainstream for its own good, and once again the R&B hook is unnecessary, but hearing Tash and J-Ro trade verses back and forth is enjoyable. I just wish this were a much better song.
13. BUBBLE UP
J Beam's beat is not bad, and it even manages to be quasi-experimental at times: it's kind of hard to bob your head to this, but it's enjoyable nonetheless. Tash's co-opting of Capital One's commercial tagline is pretty strange, though.
What the fuck? Producer Emmaculate swipes Whodini's “Friends” for an ill-conceived hook, and the beat fails to engage the audience completely. I know it was too much to hope that Tash would use his sophomore effort to break out of his comfort zone and work with different production styles, but I still had my fingers crossed. Sigh.
15. TONY TOUCH INTRO (FEAT TONY TOUCH)
It was nice to hear Tony Toca appear on another rap album. This is still an entirely skippable interlude, though.
16. CITY'S OUT
17. NEW BIKINI
This was the first single that Amalgam Digital sent out to the hip hop blogs. I was never impressed with it (which is why I never posted it on HHID), and when I hear it within Control Freek itself, I'm embarrassed that I ever named Tash as one of my favorite rappers. I understand the need to sell records, but this isn't catchy enough to be club-friendly, leading me to ask: what exactly was the point?
18. DON'T WANNA KILL U (FEAT KING T, OSIN, & STYLIZTIK JONES)
The fact that this dark track is sequenced immediately after “New Bikini” is the funniest gag on Control Freek. The hook, which
19. LIQUOR STORE RUN (FEAT J-RO & MONTAGE ONE)
Tash and J-Ro link up again for the final song on Control Freek. Over a fairly nice beat, they pass the mic around, waxing poetically about the very thing that gave their group their handle. (I'm referring to alcohol and not alcoholics, by the way.) Montage One, who also handled production duties, also sounds okay, if a bit out of place. There isn't much closure to be found at the end of this album, though.
THE LAST WORD: Control Freek has its moments, but it ultimately falters under the combined pressures of it being Tash's sophomore album and it being the first Alkaholiks album since J-Ro's barely-acknowledged solo debut (which I should go dig up). Almost defiantly West Coast in his blood, Tash sticks with his bag of tricks and a gaggle of undeniably California-esque instrumentals, but unlike his previous efforts, the landscape of hip hop has changed so much that his brand new material sounds dated as hell. And his attempt to reach out to the radio (specifically “New Bikini”) is appalling. Some of Control Freek does click, but for Tash to remain relevant in our chosen genre, a change of plan may be in order. Rico needs to make some high-profile cameo appearances, and tackling some East Coast beats can only be a good thing for him at this point: he needs to break free from tradition and take some fucking risks. I was nonplussed by Control Freek, but I'm still rooting for the guy. There's no need for anybody else to pick this album up, though.
Catch up on the other albums by Tha Alkaholiks by clicking here.