(Today's Reader Review is brought to you by The Grinch, who returns with his thoughts on the third album from West Coast-based crew Delinquent Habits, Merry Go Round. Leave your comments for The Grinch below.)
Delinquent Habits are an American Hip-Hop group of Hispanic descent consisting of members Ives, Keno the Blaxican, and DJ O.G. Style (a guy who still believes the current year is 1988, based on his name). They hail from East Los Angeles, California, and have been active since 1996. Being that they are pretty talented and have grown up in a different environment than most other rappers in the game (read: they have shit to say), it is entirely understandable that these guys have never sold more than two hundred copies of any project and that most of the planet's population is blissfully unaware of their existence. Nevertheless, they deserve some attention, mostly because they are a pleasant jolly band, but also because they are mildly connected to another California-based, weed-obsessed, and popular Latino rap group that we will talk about in a second. (Gee, I wonder who that could be.)
So, out of all of the Delinquent Habits albums in their catalog, why review Merry Go Round? Well, from the few bits I've heard before this write-up, I can already tell that this a true hip hop album (and experience), and if you remember the big bold letters up at the very top of the page, you'll see that we are trying to prove that hip hop isn't dead, even if the likes of Lady Gaga and Rihanna have somehow managed to score more than a few slots on rap album tracklists in the past few years. Also, the group brought some actual record label experience to the table this time, so I suppose that the third time's the charm, right? I'm listening to the music carefully as I write everything down so you can easily follow along.
After hearing to only a handful of tracks from Merry Go Round, hip hop heads, Cypress Hill fans, and marijuana dealers centrally located in the Golden State alike will all notice that the overall style of Delinquent Habits strongly resembles the way that Sen Dog and B-Real speak: you may even believe that you can hear some DJ Muggs influence in the beats by DJ O.G. Style (my God that is a stupid name). Unsurprisingly, this is because Delinquent Habits is part of the Hill's extended family: Sen Dog helped the band get their shit together on their self-titled debut album, Muggs has assisted behind the boards during illegal narcotics-fueled studio sessions, and Cypress Hill affiliate Mellow Man Ace (Sen Dog's brother, who was once also a part of the actual Hill) has recorded with them, as well. Personally, I think that, from time to time, the members of Delinquent Habits sound a bit too much like their more popular counterpart, to the point where the comparison is kind of irritating: for example, while B-Real naturally sounds nasally behind the mic, Ives comes across as though he's latched a vice grip around his balls so that he can permanently sound like Tweety. Thankfully for Delinquent Habits (and luckily for the audience), Cypress Hill has since become a sombrero-wearing carbon copy of Linkin Park and their ilk, and have traded in their share of awesomeness for lame-ass singles and videos aiming at an entirely different audience, so there is a void that our hosts for today are able to fill.
So? Where's Waldo?
1. STATION THIRTEEN
Yay! No rap album intro and no unfunny skit that all rappers seem especially fond of these days: the Habits skip straight to “killing shit”. So far, so good. For those of you who don't know or simply aren't familiar with this crew, they often rap in Spanglish, something that they are actually pretty good at (and this is coming from a guy who believes that most Spanish rap sucks), alternating their English bars and phrases with Spanish ones at the drop of a hat. If you are completely unfamiliar with the fact that there is a Spanish language in the first place, I invite you to go back into your cave, place a large, unmovable object in the entryway, and don't bother to come out for about seven years.
2. FEEL GOOD
Once the owner of the female voice shuts up and goes back inside to make some dinner, the song finally kicks in, with some sharp lyrics, a nice beat, and even a nice-sounding, if a bit cheesy, chorus. So yes, I do “Feel Good”, and the track is both catchy and fits in well with the rest of the project, which is an important attribute whenever you're trying to craft a good album.
3. RETURN OF THE TRES
This song is currently my workout song, my hanging-around song, and will most likely become my entrance theme once I finally start my career in porn. No wonder it has appeared on both movie and video game soundtracks: this is straight awesomeness with a generous layer of Latino influence. It's nice to see that, when they are presented with a beat that they absolutely must not fuck up, Delinquent Habits doesn't fuck up.
4. BOULEVARD STAR (FEAT. MICHELLE)
This track introduces Michelle, the girl who will permanently replace Kemo after the group's next album. Picture Big Pun with a wig, and you'll get a general impression of her (and I apologize for making you picture Big Pun with a wig). To be fair, she does sound pretty nice, even if the track samples Labelle's “Lady Marmalade”, which is always a strange choice for a rap album. This was another good track, which means that it didn't especially stand out, but it wasn't overshadowed by anything, either.
5. MIDNIGHT (FEAT. SICK JADEN)
A song to go out and chill with friends to. I'm fairly certain that “chill with friends” is simply rapper code for “smoke weed”, but the track was pretty nice anyway. I can totally see myself driving, talking on the phone, or even petting a goat while listening to this, as it is that cool and calm.
6. THE KIND
I imagine the beat contains a sample from a classical composition, but since I am ignorant, I am only able to link this to some cartoon I would watch on Saturday mornings (and even that is questionable, as I don't remember which one: I might have made this up). The group does its thing, though, and manages to sound nice. O.G. Style (who I will now refer to as Mr. Style, at least until he finds a name that doesn't try to describe a sexual position) seems to dominate whatever he has to do, both sample-wise and production-wise, which differentiates him from other useless deejays out there.
7. MERRY GO ROUND
B-Real called, and said he wants his style back. Okay, that joke sucked, but so does this song. I'd like to say that your average stoner would like this title track, but I cannot, as they wouldn't: it just sounds like shit. Unless you tend to mix Pennzoil with your daily heroin fix, I suggest you skip it.
8. QUE VUELVA (FEAT. MICHELLE)
It could be that the need to eat pizza is now controlling my mind, but I do believe that Michelle adds a positive contribution to the crew whenever she's around (which, in this case, is for the entire length of the track). The beat on here is also nice. Really nice.
9. SICK SYDE DROP
Another slow beat, but this time around the group raps quickly over it, and it sounds lethal. It truly works, unlike the fake hair sold to bald people on infomercials or the penis enlargement products sold online (don't ask how I know). Also, I believe Delinquent Habits to be the very first rap group to not come up with some gay hook mid-song, which is truly remarkable.
When this song first started, I thought Vincente Fernandez was drunk again and ready to sing. However, God bless the Delinquent Habits, as they have crafted a track that made me think I accidentally popped in a Wu-Tang Clan CD, proving once again that Latinos can swing their swords in Shaolin with the best of them. Of course, the fact that the song is named "Beijing" doesn't help separate my mind from the idea that I'm in a kung fu flick fighting both Carl Douglas and Hong Kong Phooey. At least, not until some guy with a guitar announces that the end is near, anyway.
11. NO SENSE
The "I'm poor, boo-hoo" song you get in hip hop from time to time, unless you're listening to any of Kanye West's work. I'm not trying to make light of how artists spend their rough childhood: I believe that one of the primary reasons why one becomes a musician in the first place is to exorcise all that suffering you have in there somewhere. But all of these songs start to sound similar after a while. Because of that, these remind me of the booze bags you saw posted up in front of convenience stores as a kid, the kind that your mom never wanted to give any change to, as opposed to those folks that actually lived through hell. And yes, I'm kind of an asshole.
12. SOUTHERN ACCENT
Once again, the instrumental is nice, and it fits in with all the other stuff on Merry Go Round. I'm sad to say that I'm surprised these guys are so lyrical: not that the West Coast sucks or anything, but they do seem to be prouder of jackasses like The Game than artists of this caliber. Plus, I wasn't expecting this to sound that good, so it was a pleasant surprise. Now that I think about it, I really hope that Delinquent Habits actually aren't that well-known, or else I'll look like a fool for writing this (and will become prey for Mr. T).
13. HOUSE OF THE RISING DRUM
From beginning to end, there is no denying that this song is the shit. It doesn't really sound like the other tracks on here, but damn, everything is pimped out here: all of the group members sound great, the beat is unbelievable, and Mr. Style has mixed the samples within the instrumental to perfection. Pardon me, I just started drooling.
14. ANYTIME ALL TIME
Sounds like Lil Zane's "Money Stretch" (from the Next Friday soundtrack) meets Sen Dog. This is one of those tracks that really remind me of Cypress Hill (and that's a bad thing, folks). Luckily, they still manage to rip it up, and it has a cool enough vibe to get by. Despite the fact that we're still listening to rap music, the chorus actually does not sound shitty, which helps. Also, even if Mr. Style does have a crappy name, he seems to be a good deejay.
15. TEMPTATION (FEAT. MICHELLE)
Some more nice vocals by Michelle, but once again I feel compelled to remind the readers that she is both fat and ugly-looking. Not that it really matters, I guess: everybody sounds great on here, and then Merry Go Round ends with some spoken words to what I believe is a crowd, thanking them for paying for shit that they could have listened to for free while sounding like old-school Spanish singers. I was really hoping that they would have tacked a song like “House Of The Rising Drum” or “Return Of The Tres” onto the end, so that they could end in style. Oh well.
THE LAST WORD: With Merry Go Round, Delinquent Habits offer up a damn good audible experience, delivering an album that is solid, fun to listen to, and consistent, providing listeners with a proper introduction to their sound. Now that I'm done licking ass by praising it, I'll add that, yes, at times they really do sound a lot like Cypress Hill, but they seem to appreciate their Latin roots a bit more, a feature that will appeal to proud Hispanic dumbasses (such as myself) that will unabashedly head-bang to this, thinking that they look cool, while downing another bowl of Crunch Berries. Delinquent Habits have also succeeded in creating an album that finds the melody within the hardcore hip hop sounds presented. I don't know if you realize how hard that is to accomplish: the only comparison I can come up with is picturing Raekwon rocking over something sampled from the Gypsy Kings. This album is a killer, but of course, since it sounds this great, I'm willing to bet that no large group of consumers will ever give a fuck about Delinquent Habits, so what the hell. Long live Drake.
(Questions? Comments? Concerns? Leave your thoughts below.)