February 16, 2011

Kurupt - Kuruption! (September 1, 1998)


Ricardo "Kurupt" Brown has always struck me as the pervy, Quagmire-esque guy in your crew who has to run to keep up with you, who can't grow a proper mustache, and whose misogynistic tendencies forces him to treat women as nothing more than recepticles for his sperm (when he isn't using hos "like tennis rackets", as he described on Snoop Doggy Dogg's "Doggy Dogg World") while walking into one lucky situation after another.  Am I the only guy who has ever felt like that after looking at him?

Kurupt was born in Philadelphia (and claims it as his hometown, even though he didn't live there very long), moved to California, and ultimately earned a record deal as one-half of the rap duo Tha Dogg Pound (with Dat N---a Daz), signed off of the strength of Snoop's good name, with the doomed gangsta rap label Death Row Records, home of the passive-aggressive Dr. Dre (at least when he wasn't trying to dis Eazy-E) and the motherfucking hyperviolent Marion "Suge" Knight.  In 1995, after making some very memorable guest appearances on the solo albums of both Dre and Snoop, in addition to popping up on a few film soundtracks, Tha Dogg Pound finally released their debut project, Dogg Food, which I still believe to be one of the West Coast's finest hours.  Kurupt may be repulsive as a human being, but the man could fucking spit.

Ricardo's fortunes took a turn for the worse after his controversial labelmate 2Pac was murdered in Las Vegas (in a crime that is somehow still fucking unsolved today).  His coworker RBX (one of Snoop's cousins, the other being Daz Dilinger) had already defected to another label, and Dr. Dre himself was tired of his situation (and Suge's violent business tactics) and, soon after, created the current powerhouse known as Aftermath Entertainment.  After Pac's passing, Kurupt saw the writing on the wall and got the fuck out of Dodge, choosing to set up his new home at A&M Records, who even gave him the opportunity to run his own vanity label, which he called Antra.  This is where Kurupt recorded his debut solo album, Kuruption!

For reasons unknown to sane people, Kurupt decided that his solo debut should be a double album, with one disc devoted to his West Coast fans (over exclusively California-leaning instrumentals) and the other pulling him out of his comfort zone, forcing our host to perform on East Coast beats.  Unsurprisingly, Kuruption! oftentimes sounds like a bloated whale: as Kurupt the artist never came across to me as someone who had a lot to say, filling two entire discs of original material was a bit much.  Sadly, this unnecessary padding may not have been by design: Kurupt's original vision of his debut album, which would have happened on Death Row Records in an alternate timeline, would have included contributions from all of his friends, including Snoop Dogg and Dat N---a Daz.  Instead, what listeners received in 1998 was a couple of Daz-produced efforts (and not much in the way of vocals, as Daz was still signed to Death Row at the time) and absolutely zero help from Snoop, who was too busy trying to impress his new boss at No Limit Records by washing his tank to send a verse Kurupt's way.

Ricardo's debut album was a fairly ambitions concept for a solo album: ultimately, he just wanted to hit every single demographic.  Because that always works.  Kuruption! was a mild hit back in 1998, mainly because of the residual goodwill left after Dogg Food, but absolutely nobody will admit to owning this shit today, not even Kurupt's own mother.  

Here's why.

WEST COAST DISC:

1. THIS ONE'S FOR U
After presenting a skit about smoking weed that sounds so piss poor in its execution that it's obvious that our host was probably actually super high in the booth and decided to record himself without any regard to quality control (once again, because he was probably actually super high), Kurupt turns the rap album intro cliché on its ear, using a guitar-driven Studio Ton instrumental to perform three verses that harbor very little of the clever wordplay that he was praised for on Dogg Food. He even goes out of his way to mention Daz and Snoop, as if to address the listeners' collective concern that Tha Dogg Pound had broken up just because Death Row Records imploded. This first track was self-serving and uninteresting. And I have to sit through two discs of this shit?

2. MAKE SOME NOIZE (FEAT. DAT N---A DAZ)
Fuck, is every song on Kuruption! going to start off with the sound of Kurupt Young Gotti choking on some of that good shit? That's going to get really annoying really quickly. Anyway, Priest “Soopafly” Brooks, a frequent Dogg Pound collaborator, lays down a catchy instrumental and allows Kurupt (and Daz, on the chorus, sort of) to run rampant. This is a tremendous step up from “This One's For U” (a song that wasn't really for anybody, regardless of its title), but it still feels hollow, as our host appears to have either dumbed down his delivery (the best case scenario) or has completely run out of ideas (which is more likely). The man uses the phrase, “They love Kurupt”, twice during the final verse, for fuck's sake! He also uses the final moments of the track (which runs on for far too long) to act out a conversation he once had with the producer. That was just kind of silly.

3. PUT THAT ON SOMETHING (FEAT. FREEZE)
I suppose the ridiculous title should have provided me with adequate warning, but this horseshit was fucking terrible. DeVante Swing's beat is so bad that it makes me wish that Jodeci never fucking existed, just so that I wouldn't have to recognize the guy's name, and while Kurupt tries his best to adapt, this listening experience remains awful. It also runs for longer than five minutes, and there is no excuse for that shit. Kurupt's fans may argue that this track could be seen as a precursor to the flood of “A Milli”-type songs conquering the rap game today: I say that's quite a stretch.

4. PLAY MY CARDS (FEAT. BLAQTHOVEN)
Considering the fact that Kurupt has performed almost exclusively over West Coast-type instrumentals for his entire career up to this point (his side trip on Pete Rock's “Tru Master” didn't happen until later in 1998), it's strange to hear the man sound awkward as shit over DJ Battlecat's beat, especially when Battlecat has made a name for himself as a Cali producer who may not be as big a name as his peers, but remains consistent in the quality of his work. Maybe this track is just a poor example for both players, as the music is also uncharacteristically weak. It's taking everything I have to not just skip to the next song.

5. WE CAN FREAK IT (FEAT. BABY S & ANDRE WILSON)
This Battlecat-produced track, which was Kuruption!'s first single, fares much better in the musical department, sounding like a natural, laid-back extension of Tha Dogg Pound's “Let's Play House”. Lyrically, however, Kurupt and his invited guest Baby S have lost the plot, transforming this song into yet another exercise in pointless gangsta posturing. (What does our host's preference for khaki pants over jeans even have to do with Andre Wilson's singing on the chorus about “freak[ing] it”?) So this song doesn't hold up quite as well as I had hoped. However, it still sounds better than anything else on Kuruption! thus far, so that's something.

6. FRESH
I take back that last statement: this is the best song on Kuruption! thus far. Kurupt reunited with Dat N---a Daz, who handles the boards (and performs during the breakdown as well), and his minimalist take on G-Funk is actually a perfect fit for our host, who sounds pretty goddamn inspired on here. I hate to make a comparison to “New York New York”, especially as that song is fucking brilliant, but like that track, “Fresh” features a Kurupt who isn't burdened by the need to allow Daz enough time to spit a verse, and that allows him to run through his bars unobstructed. His rhymes aren't quite as fascinating as they were before, but they're close enough to work for me at this juncture.

7. C-WALK (FEAT. TRAY DEEE & SLIP CAPONE)
I wasn't quite as entertained by this particular Daz-produced effort, but it isn't the producer's fault: his hypnotic, understated work on the beat recalls his best work on Dogg Food. The blame for the overall failure of this song falls squarely onto the shoulders of our host, who should be in his element, but allows himself to be upstaged by his guests Slip Capone and (especially) Tray Deee, a former friend of Snoop's who I've always enjoyed listening to, thanks to his gravely tone, which clashes nicely with the G-Funk usually laid underneath. This wasn't a bad song by any means, but it just doesn't work as well as Kurupt had probably hoped. It should be noted that he gives a shoutout to all of the non-Crip gang members who might be listening at the very end, which sort of negates the point of the entire song, but at least he's all about tolerance.

8. HO'S A HOUSEWIFE (FEAT. FUSS & PAUL)
Because Kuruption! couldn't be legally classified as a gangsta rap album without at least one tribute to misogyny, Kurupt decides to break down the difference between a slutty chick you would want to fuck and a slutty chick you would want to fuck more frequently. Our host decides to take to the boards himself form the only time on Kuruption!, providing a surprisingly quiet storm-ish instrumental that doesn't quite match up to the subject matter. Kurupt reused his first verse on here for Dr. Dre's similar “Housewife” (off of 2001), which sounded better simply by default, but still wasn't that great of a track (even though the “remake” featured a contribution from the underappreciated Hittman, whose face can now be found on milk cartons across the tri-state area). Too much time is devoted to a really fucking stupid shit during the final moments of the track, turning this meh song into something that is simply bad.

9. CAN'T LET THAT SLIDE (FEAT. ROSCOE)
This song sucked. Oh wait, I should probably expand on that a bit. Okay, here goes: Kurupt teams up with his younger brother Roscoe (who sounds pretty bad on here) over this generic West Coast beat (provided by Twin) to call out other rappers (for snitching on him, talking shit behind his back, stealing his ideas, and getting toast crumbs in the butter, among other complaints) without ever naming names, rendering this song a masturbatory effort without any sort of climax. Speaking of which, the skit at the end, which featured the beatdown of an unnamed adversary, sounds more than a little bit gay. It can't just be me that thinks that, right?

10. THAT'S GANGSTA
The last three songs from the West Coast disc of Kuruption! feature production from three of the biggest names from the Cali area who aren't named DJ Quik. First up is Warren G., who laces our host with a darker version of the dragon he's been trying to chase ever since Regulate...G Funk Era with only mild success, and by that I mean that Warren has successfully created a substance that could be referred to as music. Kurupt sounds pretty invested in his words, though, turning in a relatively decent gangsta rap performance that Kuruption! has been seriously lacking in.

The final two songs on the West Coast disc of Kuruption! are considered to be bonus tracks.

11. ANOTHER DAY (FEAT. GONZOE & SLIP CAPONE)
The creamy center of this West Coast trifecta (and that is not meant as a racial statement) is provided by DJ Muggs, who gives Kurupt a decidedly non-blunted, non-Cypress Hill beat, and as a result, “Survive Another Day” is boring as fuck. Kurupt would sound fantastic while in the natural Muggs habitat of weed smoke and funky samples, so Lord only knows why he chose now as the time to branch out. Kurupt and his guests probably sounded alright, but those performances may have occurred in my dreams and not on the actual track.

12. ASK YOURSELF A QUESTION (FEAT. DR. DRE)
The finale of the West Coast A-list hat trick is a song that was a late addition to Kuruption!: our host actually held back the release of his solo debut just so he could score a Dr. Dre instrumental (because, as we all know, the good doctor works on his own time schedule). Although in the present day, Kurupt has obviously worked alongside a wide range of producers, back in 1998 I mainly associated him with Dr. Dre prescriptions (Dogg Food notwithstanding), so it isn't surprising that his excitement over getting on this song with Andre is palpable, even if the track itself (which was also a single) is a bit underwhelming. It's safe to say that a large percentage of fans who bought this double album skipped ahead to this song first, and in that respect, it sounds alright, and it even fits within the context of the West Coast disc, so that was a plus. But for my money, “Fresh” is the best song on this half of the project.

EAST COAST DISC:

1. IT'S A SETUP
The East Coast feed of tonight's program kicks off with an overlong attempt at a crime caper, the type of storytelling rap that Kurupt typically eschews in favor of generic shit-talking. And for his first two verses, he sounds pretty good, ably assisted by D-Moet's instrumental. But then Kurupt loses his mind and starts to babble for the rest of the song's six-and-a-half minute running time, and I actually ended up feeling bad for him, because it sounded as though he finally cracked under the pressure of releasing a double-disc album as his solo debut. Why couldn't he have stuck with a single disc? Since when have we ever considered Kurupt Young Gotti to be an overachiever? It's just not fair!

2. LIGHT SHIT UP (FEAT. BUCKSHOT)
Hiring Easy Mo Bee to lend a beat to the East Coast chapter of your story is an inspired idea, but on a track featuring Buckshot (from Black Moon), how do you not go for the more obvious choice of Da Beatminerz? At least that way, Buck's chorus, “Fucking with the Buck and Kurupt / You might get 'kurupted' to get 'buck' / That's what's up!”, might have been more palatable. The combination of the two emcees-slash-record label heads is actually a pretty effective one, or at least it might have been had their respective performances been up to par. Mo Bee's beat sounds like a generic retread of his older work, too. There really isn't much good to say about this shit. I think we're in trouble.

3. GAME
Although he's given the handicap of working with a shitty hook, Kurupt pushes through and gives listeners a much more lyrical performance than one would expect from a rap song with such a plain title. D-Moet's instrumental backing actually sounds more Left Coast-ish than New York grimy: actually, it comes across as something that could be a perfect fit for AZ. There was no reason for this song to run for six minutes, though: someone should teach Kurupt about the joys of restraint.

4. GIMMEWHUTCHAGOT (FEAT. BARSHAWN)
This was the second single from Kuruption!, I think: at the very least, there was a video shot for it, featuring the artists manhandling the camera, and for some reason I remember seeing Pete Rock standing around, too. Which begs the question: why wasn't Peter consulted for his instrumental assistance for the East Coast disc? I assume that those two were on good terms if the Soul Brother was willing to show up in his video and all. (Truthfully, I'm probably remembering the video wrong, and the part of Pete Rock might have been played by Alec Baldwin or Michael BublĂ© for all I know.) Anyway, Med's work on the beat helps move things along enough, and our host gives a bit too much airtime to his invited guest Barshawn (who sounds decent anyway), but the song lives and dies by Kurupt's performance, and he sounds at least three shades of false, especially when he screams, “Mother fuck the fame!”, as though he became a rapper just to facilitate his habit of being a fucking recluse. Meh.

5. IF YOU SEE ME (FEAT. MR. SHORT KHOP, BABY S, EL-DREZ, & TRIGGA)
If you believe the instrumental to be a Wu-Tang retread, you're exactly right: Storm, the founder of loose Wu affiliate label Rocks The World, provides the beat and convinced Trigga, of the crew M.M.O. (who sound like the male version of Storm's other group, the Deadly Venoms), that performing alongside Kurupt (along with El-Drex, Baby S, and, inexplicably, Ice Cube's weed carrier Mr. Short Khop) would be a good idea. And you know what? It kind of is. The hook is corny but just silly enough not to offend anybody, and everyone manages to sound pretty good. I question Kurupt's resources, though, since he's worked with Inspectah Deck and Method Man in the past, and he's part of a fucking supergroup with Killah Priest (the Horsemen), which obviously didn't form overnight: he had to have been on good enough terms with Priest back in 1998. Was Trigga really the best he could manage? Regardless, I liked this song.

6. THE LIFE (FEAT. EL-DREX)
This song was boring as shit. The only mental image I appreciated was the idea of Kurupt consuming an entire carton of shrooms: I imagine that would be the only way that this beat could be referred to as “tolerable”. It was nice of our host to essentially give this song to his boy El-Drex, though.

7. NO FEELINGS (FEAT. SLOP & PATACICO)
Producer D-Moet must offer his beats in a bulk package at Costco: that's the only excuse I can come up with for him to pop up so many goddamn times on the debut solo album of an artist who has been around long enough to have some of the more popular producers programmed into his phone. However, I did appreciate how he mixes together two entirely different instrumentals for this song, which isn't that bad, except for when our host finally takes to the mic. His weed carriers artists sound decent enough, and they drop Kurupt's name like the good employees they are, but there's a reason Kurupt Young Gotti never became the successful label CEO he imagined himself to be.

8. IT'S TIME (FEAT. DEADLY VENOMS)
Storm returns to the boards, this time bringing with him his other Wu-related group, the all-female Deadly Venoms. Who the fuck knows why Kurupt would agree to this shit, since the mere fact that there are four members of the group (three of whom actually appear on here) renders “It's Time” to be a Deadly Venoms song featuring Kurupt instead of vice versa, especially as he only manages to squeak out a short verse somewhere near the midpoint, but whatever. The instrumental sounded pretty generic, much worse than anything Storm was able to do with Deadly Venoms / Antidote, but at least the guests sounded alert, which is much more than one could say about our distracted host. Groan.

9. I WANNA (FEAT. RALIK ROYALE, SNAKE, FLOYD, & DREA)
What the fuck is this shit? Did you really need to waste seven-and-a-half minutes of the listener's life (eight-and-a-half, if you count the useless interlude at the end) explaining that you like to fuck? Really? This entire song goes a long way toward explaining why Kurupt is damn near irrelevant in today's hip hop landscape.

10. WHO DO U BE (FEAT. SHELENE)
I suppose that the East Coast sound of 1998 was dominated by Puff Daddy's 1980's-inspired pop rap crap, so Kurupt, in an attempt to cover all of his bases, follows suit. However, nobody buys a Kurupt album hoping to hear some radio-friendly bullshit, so this track fares about as well as you would expect. At least this shit wasn't over seven minutes long, though.

The following song on the East Coast disc of Kuruption! is considered to be a bonus track.

11. WE CAN FREAK IT (OUT) (REMIX) (CHK) (FEAT. NOREAGA)
This song, the final selection from Kuruption!, was also a late addition. The combination of Kurupt and Noreaga, who is considered a former foe of our host because Capone-N-Noreaga participated on the song “LA, LA”, the response record to Tha Dogg Pound's “New York, New York”, was supposed to be a bigger deal, but neither man even bothers to bring it up, so this partnership appears to be random at best. Lyrically, Kurupt sounds terrible, and Noreaga's future is already clear, with lines like “All the bitches that don't like us / can suck our dicks!” Um, no, they probably won't suck your dicks because they don't like you. That's how it works, you see. Anyway, this was a bleh ending to a bleh album.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Kuruption! Is an ambitious solo debut from Kurupt, in that he blatantly attempted to appease both the East and West Coast audiences by directing certain songs to each: I wonder if he would have also released a Dirty South disc had he released this project today. (Yeah, probably.) Unfortunately, as with most double-disc efforts in our chosen genre, Kuruption! Is littered with filler tracks. (I don't believe that any solo artist should ever be allowed to release a double album, especially in our chosen genre, unless it is a compilation of older, vaulted material or the artist has spent at least five years recording the fucking thing.) And unfortunately for Kurupt, he doesn't come across as the type of artist that could really thrive with a solo career: without the counterbalance provided by his partner Daz Dillinger, he follows all of his reckless impulses, with near-disastrous results. The East Coast half, meant to display his Philadelphia roots, is a joke (has he ever actually listened to a rap album from a New York artist?), but Kurupt also falters on the West Coast half as well: he isn't able to generate much chemistry with his collaborators (save for Daz himself on “Fresh" and Dr. Dre, who he had damn well better connect with, seeing that Kurupt probably wrote Dre's lyrics and all), turning Kuruption! into an overlong exercise in sadomasochism. Regardless of what I wrote above, I think Kurupt does actually have it in him to turn in a decent solo album, but Kuruption! isn't it: this double-disc paperweight is such a failure, I don't think it's even capable of protecting your coffee table from water stains. This entire album was as much of a chore as cleaning the bathroom.

BUY OR BURN? Burn this if you absolutely have to. It's your funeral. The two songs listed below are alright, but they are far from being essential for your overall well-being.

BEST TRACKS: “Fresh”; “If You See Me”

-Max

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16 comments:

  1. i will NOT stop untill u review it. IMMORTAL TECHNIQUE - REVOLUTIONARY, VOL. 1 REVIEW it how can you not wen it has the classic east coast song dance with the devil? damm

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  2. I can’t imagine listening to this piece of shit all the way through.

    This album was partly responsible for launching the worst period of hip hop history. After the classic Dogg Food I had high hopes for this, but Kurupt just added to the pile of let downs that ruined the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.

    I also refuse to acknowledge that Kurupt is from Philly, as far as I’m concerned he’s from LA.

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  3. Gotta disagree with you here, Max. No, the album wasn't perfect, as there were numerous missteps (which is to be expected on a double disc), but I really liked it.

    I think "It's a Set Up" is one of the greatest pump-up songs ever (it's my favorite song on the album, personally), and songs like "Make Some Noize," "If You See Me," "C-Walk," and "We Can Freak It" really hit home for me.

    Most people would say that "The Streetz Is a Mutha" is Kurupt's best solo effort, but I much prefer "Kuruption!".

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  4. HA! I actually liked most of the West Coast Disc, but I agree that the East Coast Disc was fucking abysmal. The instrumental to If You See Me was ill as fuck, though.

    Oh yeah, Ask Yourself a Question annoys the hell out of me.

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  5. This album is far too long, otherwise it could have been passable as a single disc. And by the way Max, give K-Rino a try, proves that southern rappers can be lyrical too but admittedly, he doesn't really have an ear for beats.

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  6. Kurupt's travels in rap is such a sad story. When I first started listening to rap he was one of my favorites, but the spark he showed in the beginning quickly doused and he totally stopped progressing. It's like he thought "fuck it. why even bother?". Granted I think Tha Streetz Iz A Mutha and Space Boogie had a pretty good ratio of Ipod-worthy tracks contra the bullshit ones, but it was never due to his lyrical ability which it seems he just gave up on. I can't imagine how awkward the conversations the other three in the HRSMN have when sad puppy-eyed Kurupt isn't present.

    Although I know it won't go well, I would enjoy further reviews of his work.

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  7. I'd rather just buy another 2 copies of Dogg Food instead.

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  8. God oh thank you for bringing back the buy or burn. I always loved that little feature.

    And why do artists (of any genre), choose to do double-disc albums? It's just stupid imo.

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  9. i guess the shit albums have to be reviewed to...

    now get to some masta ace!

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  10. The 'buy or burn' section never went away; it's just never been a part of the Gut Reaction posts.

    Thanks for reading!

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  11. Kurupt disappointed with his solo career. In a way it's nice now cuz he's somewhat back on his game.

    Still waiting for a DJ Muggs vs. Kurupt album.

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  12. @P_Captain

    k-rino's beats arent his problem, its his fucking terrible choruses
    but yes he is a very good rapper, something like a mixture of scarface and kool g rap

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  13. Stop asking for Tech, his breath control and shitty opinons make me want to stab him in the face. Dance with the devil isn't classic, the hidden song after is though.

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  14. immortal technique isnt capable of making a classic song

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  15. I'll be entirely honest here, I have not heard this album and this review simply encourages me that I am no worse off for not having done so. That said, I was just wondering if Max has heard the official "Wake Up! Radio" remix compilation mixtape from J.Period, John Legend and The Roots, featuring the likes of Q-Tip, Common, CL Smooth, dead prez and even the God MC, Rakim. Whether you end up reviewing it or not, I at least recommend you give it a listen, as in this listener's personal opinion, it's pretty fantastic stuff.

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  16. I cannot believe Kurupt made this crappy album.
    Nice review BTW.

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