(Today's Reader Review, the final one of the year, comes from the artist formerly known as Sir Bonkers, the newly christened Bennyfromdablock. Continuing his trend with writing up albums that most people (read: me) have little to no interest in, today's post discusses current Rikers inmate G-Dep and his solo debut, Child Of The Ghetto. Leave some notes for him below, and check out his own review blog when you get a chance.)
G-Dep is an emcee who was once signed to Puffy’s Bad Boy Records: he remained there from 1999 to 2001, when his debut album Child of the Ghetto failed to move any units. (Although he did contribute to Puff Daddy’s successful compilation that year, The Saga Continues..., which makes his career very similar to Hittman’s.) He is currently doing time on Rikers Island for shooting and killing a man during a robbery back 1993, a case that initially went cold even though the man tried to confess on three separate occasions (he wasn't taken seriously the first two times because he happened to be on angel dust).
Before he was signed to Bad Boy, he was a Gang Starr Foundation affiliate, even earning a shout-out in the liner notes of 1994's Hard To Earn as one of the underground emcees holding it down, appearing in the same sentence as the entire motherfucking Wu-Tang Clan. He was also featured on Moment Of Truth's “The Mall”. So that should count for something, right?
So I was checking out my copy of The Saga Continues…, remembered G-Dep's cameos (and his appearances on other projects), and figured, "why the fuck not?" Diddy’s and Black Rob's respective albums at the time were above average in quality, right?
2. EVERY DAY
Over an ominous piano-based Amen-Ra beat, Dep introduces his pre-album-advance persona. Although he isn’t as charismatic as his labelmates Black Rob and Shyne (note that I’m not saying Shyne is a good rapper here), he turns out to be a good storyteller with close attention to detail, and his tale about being broke, down, and out is something we can all relate to in this economy. The hook cleverly flips a line originally from Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick's “La Di Da Di”. (Side note: the fact that G-Dep allegedly (and by his own account) killed someone during a robbery lends credibility to the belief that he actually did have a bad time in the ghetto, unlike, say, The Notorious B.I.G.)
3. CHILD OF THE GHETTO
This song originally appeared on Puffy’s The Saga Continues… compilation. The beat isn’t catchy, and our host's flow, rhymes, and voice all fail to hold my attention.
4. SPECIAL DELIVERY (FEAT. DIDDY)
This club banger, courtesy of EZ Elpee, was actually a hit single. To me, this sounds like an overly simplistic version of the Clipse’s “Mr. Me Too” (although “Special Delivery” was released well before that effort), with its entranced female ab-libs and it’s bleeps. Anyway, if it weren’t for Diddy shouting everywhere on the song as if he was trying to coax better verses out of G-Dep, this would be flat-out boring: as it is, it’s simply obnoxious. I guess I had forgotten how talented this man truly is. There’s also an official remix that features Ghostface Killah, Keith Murray & Craig Mack. I guess I could get all excited about the return of the Mack to Bad Boy Records (a comeback that lasted the length of exactly one verse), but then again, it doesn’t sound sufficiently better than this song.
5. WHATEVER (INTERLUDE)
6. KEEP IT GANGSTA (FEAT. SHYNE)
It comes as a surprise that Shyne appears on this song because I believe this was released after the infamous trial. This sounds like a parody of, well, keeping things gangsta. The hook, courtesy of the guest, has to be the absolute worst I have ever heard in my entire fucking life. Perhaps the judge heard him ask, “Where the n----z with big guns and big dicks?” 3,729 times on this song sometime during the proceedings and decided to let him experience the answer firsthand in the bing for ten years straight . It's that awful. Also, why were Knobody and Sean Cane both required to create this shitty beat?
7. SMASH ON THE FIRST NIGHT (FEAT. MAY)
This instrumental, the creation of which involved Mario Winans, sounds like a J-Lo reject, but, at the very least, this failed radio-friendly track is catchy. That’s something the previous three songs didn’t have going for them. I hope G-Dep didn't get "smashed" upon his first night in the bing.
8. THE RIDE
This was okay, I suppose.
9. NEWS REPORT (INTERLUDE)
I’m actually glad that there’s a skit rather than a repetitive song at this point.
10. DANGER ZONE
This actually manages to sound like “Special Delivery” redux.
11. I AM (FEAT. KOOL G RAP & RAKIM)
The Yogi instrumental sounds a lot more engaging than everything since “Every Day”. Although I’m fairly new to the work of both guest stars (hey, at least he's honest), they both lay down decent verses. Not great: just decent. This isn’t what their respective legacies are based upon anyway, so I’ll probably be forgiven for not eating this shit up like a poorly made cheeseburger when you’re on some good weed downtown and having the munchies. Still, compared to the suffocating boredom that was what came before this, it was a breath of fresh air.
12. BLAST OFF (FEAT. MARK CURRY & LOON)
Also taken from The Saga Continues...This Neptunes-aping club banger has a much better than, for instance, “Special Delivery”, which is too bad, since the featured guests on here are easily the two worst rappers signed to Bad Boy ever (and yes, I am including Sean Combs himself). At least there are three individual voices, which slightly takes the attention off their individual verses
13. THE REAL (INTERLUDE)
14. DOE FIEND
Apparently, this is an updated version of Eric B. & Rakim's classic “Microphone Fiend”; I wouldn't know, as I haven't heard the original (again, at least he's honest), but this doesn't do anything for me. Puffy’s obviously trying to connect all of his artists to the old school (see: his own “Been Around the World”, The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Hypnotize", Black Rob’s “Thug Story”, Shyne’s “That’s Gangsta” and now this). But that doesn't mean it's working.
15. I WANT THE WORLD TO SEE (FEAT. JOE HOOKER)
And to think Diddy could just as easily have released another Black Rob album instead of this. Robbie’s debut went gold without selling out, right? (Um, not exactly.) What was Puff thinking? He would finally do just that in 2007, when everyone had already forgotten all about the guy. What does this have to do with anything? This sounds like the two Joe Hooker-featured songs on Life Story simply because he’s on here, except for that this one sucks.
16. LET’S GET IT (FEAT. DIDDY & BLACK ROB)
Again, from The Saga Continues... G-Dep gets the first two verses (and the hook) and manages sound good, which was awfully nice of him. Both guests get a verse each, and it all works because the energetic Yogi beat knocks and diverts attention from their actual bars.
17. IT’S ALL OVER (FEAT. CARL THOMAS)
No it isn’t, you lying, sadistic bastards.
18. ONE WAY (FEAT. BLACK ROB)
The beat (by some guy who goes by the awful, awful moniker Spunk Bigga) has a way of creeping up your spine, and Dep's hook is actually really good in this context. Rob murders G-Dep on his own shit because his voice isn’t so sleep-inducing to whomever may listen. This could have been better had Robert been given more mic time, but overall this was okay. (Side note: The fact that Dep really killed a guy makes this song a lot creepier, even though that doesn't actually change the quality of the track.)
19. STRAIGHT TO THE TOP (INTERLUDE)
Only one more song to go.
20. NOTHING’S GONNA STOP ME
Oh, yeah? How’s about the eject button, motherfucker!? I also suppose that poor album sales, a substance abuse problem, and now this murder case case might stop G-Dep's rap career, at least. Anyway, this leads into an unnecessary hidden bonus remix of “Let’s Get It” if you still care enough to be reading this.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I originally went into G-Dep's Child Of The Ghetto with an open mind, having heard Dep's contributions to that one Gang Starr song, Black Rob’s Life Story, B.I.G.’s Born Again, Diddy’s Forever and The Saga Continues... (yeah, I know) and a Benzino remix that also featured Fabolous (I know, quit your bitchin’). Although a lot of what I just mentioned is bad music in and of itself, I found that I often did enjoy G-Dep's performance. However, when he is left on his own for more than one or two verses, he is simply not that interesting of a rapper. G-Dep seems barely able to write one entire song worth hearing, and his bloodless vocal tone (which is annoyingly bland, as opposed to Ma$e’s possible-to-ignore monotone). This is so problematic that if you try to hear this in its entirety, you’ll find yourself paying more attention to Puffy’s fucking ad-libs. Although I have to give Puff kudos for not filling Child Of The Ghetto with samples from 1980s songs and old Biggie verses, most of the instrumentals he chose for this project are pretty awful. There are rumors that G-Dep was battling an addiction to angel dust while recording this project; although I'm not sure what the effects of that particular drug are, Dep does sound heavily sedated on here most of the time. There is an interview in which our star claims that his drug problem caused Diddy and him to fall out: I say it was probably his pimp’s general inability to sell him to any audience.
BUY OR BURN?: Do me a favor and check out “Every Day”. It’s a good song. Honestly! And it deserves to be heard, in spite of the bullshit album it found itself living upon. The rest of this should be left wherever you may find it.
BEST TRACKS: “Every Day”; “Let’s Get It”
(Questions? Comments? Concerns? Leave your thoughts below.)