(After a brief four-day nap (you two realized that running three posts in one day would probably lead to me skipping a round, right?), today I run a Reader Review for an artist I pretty much know nothing about, which makes for the best kind of Reader Reviews for me personally. Crazy Dave (better known as the commenter Dave Tarantino) takes on Decatur-based Jarren Benton's debut album, My Grandma's Basement. I've since figured out that Benton is known for his shock-value punchlines and use of trap-ish beats, which at least makes it seem like he isn't gunning for the Odd Future throne. After a really quick intro, he jumps right in, so get settled in and leave your thoughts for him below.)
The readers of this blog must be aware of how hip hop is supposedly making a comeback at the moment. I happen to be one of those people that believes the artists responsible for bringing it “back” are merely revisiting the sound from the East Coast back in the 1990s. Not that I mind, but whatever.
Today I will be reviewing Jarren Benton’s debut album (because his mixtapes don’t count), My Grandma's Basement. It was released by the house that (2012 XXL Freshman and Tyler, The Creator adversary) Hopsin built, Funk Volume, last summer. Most people will read that last sentence and think, “Wait a minute, Hopsin signed this guy? Then this album is going to be shit.” That was my initial expectation going into this, too. However, I was surprised: whether that is a good or a bad thing will be determined by this review.
1. YAYA (SKIT)
Well, that was useless.
2. RAZOR BLADES & STEAK KNIVES (FEAT. HEMI)
The first actual song on My Grandma’s Basement features Jarren dropping jokes as though they were kids from a plane. Meanwhile, the Kato instrumental is pretty banging, and the weird synth on a loop meshes well with Jarren’s delivery. I actually liked the hook, which is strange, as I feel that the choruses within our chosen genre typically suck monley balls.
3. LIFE IN THE JUNGLE
This song is bombastic. Jarren Benton raps his ass off on this track, switching to a speedy flow that actually doesn’t sound like he just put a bunch of words together from a thesaurus. Kato’s production is good, even though I hate when producers speed up hi-hats: this is sort-of fixed when the beat changes to something more menacing near the end of the track. The chorus was meh, but overall I’m starting to like this.
4. DON'T ACT
I can take or leave this track, mostly because of the Kato production. On first listen, I loved Jarren’s third verse, but the rest of the song sounds too much like a 2 Chainz impression for comfort. This is pretty much exactly what I was expecting from this album when I first heard about it, though.
5. BIG RUBE INTERLUDE (FEAT. BIG RUBE)
One of the most pretentious things I’ve heard in a long while. Still doesn't beat the introduction on the first disc for Wu-Tang Forever, though.
The Spittzwell instrumental is something you wouldn’t expect Jarren to rap over (if you're familiar with his other work, anyway), and he flows over it admirably. He raps about some pretty personal stuff on here, which was refreshing. I didn’t care for the hook at all, though.
7. THE WAY IT GOES (FEAT. PLANET VI)
This ended up being my favorite track on My Grandma's Basement because of the Reckless Dex beat and how energetic Jarren sounds. It feels as though he drank three cups of coffee cut with Red Bull before stepping into the booth. I liked the hook, too: it fits with the rest of the song. Planet VI also does well enough for himself, even though I have no idea who he is.
8. CADILLACS AND CHEVYS
I laughed at the intro to this song. The song itself will play very well in the car, but unfortunately falls into the “trap” category. I liked Jarren’s jokes, but felt he could’ve done better on a different type of beat. The chorus fits the song, so overall I still thought this was okay.
9. HEART ATTACK
Jarren sounds like Eminem on this track, flow-, concept-, and delivery-wise. He comes across as a good storyteller: his detail to the story is really, really damn good. I loved the instrumental on here because of the eerie vocal singing loop that meshes really well with the story and delivery, especially toward the end, where the beat veers into different territory, which is awesome. The skit in the middle adds to the Eminem feel.
10. MY ADIDAS
Jarren dedicates this song to his Adidas and comes off as goofy, but Jarren has enough charm to pull it off. I can see him as that kid in high school showing off his shoes to everyone, thinking he’s the shit. Anyway, the Kato instrumental was pretty good, and the hook incorporates scratches that sound pretty good and that deep voice thing rappers do nowadays. This song could easily be played on radio stations throughout the country (the better ones, anyway). Overall, I like this track.
11. SMELLS LIKE (FEAT. R.A. THE RUGGED MAN & MIC BUDDAH)
Huh, R.A. the Rugged Man snuck onto on this album. Good for him, trying to branch out. Anyway, this song rocks (I'm stealing Max’s signature italics here). R.A. and Jarren share awesome chemistry, vulgarity included. R.A.’s deep voice and Jarren’s higher pitched voice just sound so good together. In particular, I love when Jarren raps, “They say you are what you eat, I don't recall eating a fuckin’ rapist”. The Spittzwell instrumental is probably the grimiest of the entire album, and both rappers excelled. Loved this track.
12. EVEN MORE NO HOMO (SKIT)
Actually really, really funny. How did Jarren manage to get away with this skit? I’ll leave you with one word: wrestling.
13. BULLY (FEAT. VINNIE PAZ)
I am actually not that a big fan of Vinnie Paz, but when he does a good verse, I commend him. On “Bully”, Vinnie does his thing, thankfully without trying to stuff as many syllables as he can into one bar to pass himself off as what people may call “lyrical”. The beat is like something that came straight from R.A.’s the Rugged Man’s Legends Never Die. I’m impressed with Jarren so far: he didn’t fail on this track, either.
14. I DESERVE IT
Hypnotic, in a similar vein as “The Morning” off of the G.O.O.D. Music Cruel Summer compilation. Jarren does some decent speed-rapping on this track. The beat manages to switch itself up enough to keep me interested, and the chorus was really damn catchy. He actually adjusts his flow many times, which impressed me, although he could’ve done better with his lyrics on his verses, especially during the speed-rapping.
15. GO OFF (FEAT. HOPSIN & SWIZZZ)
The M16 beat sucks in the beginning, but gradually gets better by the time Jarren gets to the middle of his verse. Everyone on here sounds like they have little to no chemistry with each other, which makes no fucking sense considering Jarren is part of Hopsin’s label. SwizZz and Hopsin sound very generic, with neither delivering memorable verses. I hope Jarren remixes this track or something by removing Hopsin and SwizZz, because it is underwhelming in its current state.
16. WE (MY OWN DICK) (FEAT. DIZZY WRIGHT & POUNDS)
Jarren sounds annoying on this track, probably because the instrumental gives me a headache. I don’t understand why Dizzy Wright is considered to be a big deal: he sounds as bland as (and now here comes the hate comments) Roc Marciano. I will give Marcy some credit: he doesn’t sound bad when he has someone to bounce off of that has a lot of energy, like, say, Freeway, Action Bronson, or even his former boss, Bus-a-Bus. I feel bad that I went off topic, but I needed to get that off my chest. Now, this song isn’t anything special, but it least sounds better than the last one.
17. PBR & REEFER
I thought this was alright upon my first listen, because Jarren sounded pretty good, but the instrumental fucks everything up. This is a bigger train wreck than the two largest trains from the West and East coasts colliding and an airplane randomly dropping a bomb from a very specific altitude of 12,735 feet onto the wreckage.
18. OJ (FEAT. ELZ JENKINS)
Finally, a decent track after a series of misfires. This was a nice break from all the shit that came before it. Jarren and (I’m assuming here) his weed carrier do a good job, the beat finally working in Jarren’s favor.
19. MY GRANDMA'S BASEMENT
This song bangs louder than a twelve-gauge shotgun fired right next to your ear. All of Jarren’s paranoia throughout the project seems to have culminated into this title track. The beat is a huge way to end the album, and a perfect fit for Jarren. This was just awesome.
THE LAST WORD: My Grandma’s Basement starts off pretty great, actually, and it picks up at the end, working its way through an indifferent middle. Jarren Betton is an interesting rapper, but one wonders what he could do over some boom-bap instrumentals or even a few El-P beats. I personally will be looking forward to Jarren’s sophomore album, because this was definitely a pleasant surprise. However, you will probably want to preview a few of the tracks before you make a decision, since Jarren's rhyme style and choice of instrumentals can be an acquired taste: I would suggest “The Way It Goes”, “Smells Like”, and “Heart Attack” as a starter course.
(Questions? Comments? Concerns? Leave them below.)