This is where the first paragraph goes. Typically I'll write something quick about the subject of the day's post, usually a question to grab the reader's attention, or a random fact or two that is intended to make the reader think about the subject in a different way than they may be used to. This paragraph ends with a phrase or question that is supposed to draw the reader in, resulting in the reader clicking the link underneath in order to continue through the post further.
Now that we're inside the proper post and off of the main page, this is the point where I start diving into the subject a bit more in depth. I tend to follow the timeline through the subject's back catalog, since the day's post has most certainly been informed by what work has come before it. Then comes either a dismissal of the artist's previous work or heaping mounds of praise, depending on whether I like the artist on that specific day. Italics are to be used (or overused), as is the casual use of profanity, because I tend not to sugarcoat things, fucking hell.
Here are where more words on the subject of today's post will go. Stuff like the title of the album or EP, the label that released it, and the circumstances under which it was recorded in the first place. Typically followed by something a bit more personal, regarding what kind of impact the project had on me when I first listened to it, or what historical or pop-cultural significance it may hold in my life, or, let's be honest, some filler to pad the review.
Probably more filler, perhaps with some jokes thrown in to make me sound like I'm over all of this.
And then something to lead directly into the body of the review itself.
1. CAN'T GET TOUCHED
Kudos to Havoc for not including an introductory track: rather, he chooses to jump right into the fray with a dull-as-shit track that sets the overall tone for his second solo album, Hidden Files. The beat is generic as fuck, and the hook uses pretty much all of the words, which is a curious choice, since our host is hardly known as a wordsmith. However, at least his two verses sound like the Havoc that we all know and are currently confused by, given his on again/off again relationship with the other half of Mobb Deep. Should have been better, but hey.
2. I CLAP 'EM UP
At least Havoc still has some trucks up his production sleeve, combining a simple instrumental with what sounds like a squeaky door creeping open in a dungeon or a goddamn drawbridge being lowered or some shit. The beat is good. The rest of the track, however, comes across as something Curtis Jackson may have written for himself during the window when Mobb Deep was a part of G-Unit: it sounds ridiculous, boastful, and violent without provocation, just like Fiddy. Not that I'm trying to float the rumor that 50 Cent ghostwrites for Havoc, mind you. But if that's your takeaway from this entire paragraph, well, so be it. But that beat though.
The bloody hell was this shit supposed to be? Havoc apparently couldn't afford an Akon, a T-Pain, or, fuck it, even a Ron Browz on his Koch graveyard budget, and instead recruited nobody Ricky Blaze to sing an Auto-Tuned-to-high-heaven hook during his ode to his sexual prowess, especially as it concerns fun times with your girlfriend. Our host has never shied away from the fuck tales before, so “Watch Me” isn't remotely surprising, but what is a bit of a shocker is the instrumental, which comes across as Havoc's meager attempt at what he believed mainstream radio sounded like back in 2009. He throws in a few ideas to at least keep the music decent, if not very good or entertaining, but the song as a whole is complete garbage.
4. HEART OF THE GRIND
Havoc shouts out New York almost immediately after a poorly-worded and distasteful quasi-metaphor regarding the fall of the World Trade Center and blowjobs. I wish I were kidding. How did this shit not spark a negative reaction back in 2009? My money's on the fact that it's because the track sucks. Havoc's instrumental is a shoddy interpretation of his own work on Murda Musik, as are his verses, which clearly illustrate how fruitful it is for our host to have assistance behind the microphone. This was just bad.
5. YOU TREATED ME (FEAT. CASSIDY)
Not a moment too soon, Havoc (finally) recruits a guest rapper for Hidden Files, although, oddly, he reaches out of his Infamous Mobb comfort zone and lands on Philly resident Cassidy, a dude whose Cam'Ron-esque flow secured him a mild hit or two back in 2005 but hasn't served him well since. (He popped up recently to address The Great Kendrick Lamar “Control” Controversy of 2013, but nobody gave much of a shit.) Havoc's instrumental was pretty good, aside from the looped sound bite that gives “You Treated Me” its name, but the beat is wasted on a pair of silly (and sexist) sex raps that almost go out of their way to make rap artists sound like the most vile and reprehensible men on the face of the fucking planet. But I liked the music enough, I guess.
6. MY LIFE
7. THAT'S MY WORD
Every single one of the songs on Hidden Files thus far says the exact same shit: Havoc never switches lanes, relying on a mixture of shit-talk, threats, and unfortunate imagery of him performing the act of sexual congress that grows less and less convincing with each new iteration. (I guess “You Treated Me” could be seen as an exception, since that was almost entirely about boning, but I stand behind my statement.) I imagine even Havoc must be tired of saying the exact same goddamn shit on every motherfucking track: it's almost as though he signed to Death Row Records just to escape a prison sentence and recorded a ton of material, most of which contained overlapping subject matter, in a short time just to fulfill the terms of his contract as quickly as possible or something. (Yeah, I went there.) At least the music shows brief spurts of our host's creativity: too bad it's forever chained to this piffle.
8. THE HUSTLER
There isn't anything especially hustler-ish about “The Hustler”, except for maybe that cameo from the late Paul Newman toward the end. Oh wait, I dreamed that last bit up? So you're saying that I could create a better Havoc solo album in my sleep?
9. THE MILLENNIUM
Unless he's talking about the goddamn future, Havoc is either eight or nine years too late to talk about the new millennium (depending on your personal belief if when the new millennium actually started, which is undoubtedly wrong no matter what you choose). Accordingly, our host also sounds behind the times on here, spitting threats and boasts with as much conviction as a rabbi taking a bite out of a delicious slice of bacon just to prove a point. Also, there is a beat on here that exists.
10. WALK WIT ME
Havoc's instrumental on “Walk Wit Me”, however, sounds pretty decent, although it most certainly would have worked better had it been earmarked for a Mobb Deep collaboration and not a solo shot. Our host's bars have grown beyond tired at this point, as though he was also bored by his lyrics during the writing process but had to record them anyway because he didn't have time to come up with some new shit. Because of that contractual obligation thing mentioned above, you see. Callback. Havoc could probably reuse this beat for a Mobb Deep album (if there will ever be another one, obviously) and nobody would even notice, mainly because nobody gives a flying fuck about Hidden Files. The more you know, Hav.
11. ON A MISSION (FEAT. PRODIGY)
The lone Mobb Deep track on Hidden Files is as uninspired as its title. Prodigy's verse isn't exactly “The Learning (Burn)”-levels of awful, but it's pretty fucking terrible, which means that all Hav has to do is rhyme his bars (something Cellblock P doesn't even bother doing for some of his lines) and he would walk away the winner. Our host's instrumental is bleh, and the overall final product is, simply put, a song that makes me wonder why we all made such of a big fucking deal about Mobb Deep in the first fucking place. Truth.
12. THIS IS WHERE IT'S AT (FEAT. BIG NOYD)
Weirdly, Havoc fares much better when paired with perennial Weed Carrier Of The Year Rapper Noyd than he does with his own bandmate. (Foreshadowing of their later problems? The fuck should I know?) Over a simple beat that moves things at a steady clip, Hav and Noyd give the listener a single verse each (Noyd also lends a hook) that successfully buck the overall theme of Hidden Files, that of being a terrible rap album. It isn't the finest collaboration in the world or anything, but apparently this is as good as it's going to get, folks.
13. DON'T KNOCK IT TIL YOU TRY IT
This beat would have been put to better use had our host sold it to the highest bidder: it's nothing like Mobb Deep's heyday (which has long past, and you won't convince me otherwise, and yes, I still don't like the title track on Hell On Earth, so sue me), but it's bouncy enough that it might have caught on and grown into a mild hit for a different act. Unfortunately, Havoc uses his own musical backing for a song that is essentially about not-forcing-but-forcing a girl to open her mind and her legs to some really tame-by-comparison sexual experimentation. We get it: you like pussy. Whatever. Do a better job writing about it and we'll give a damn.
14. TELL ME MORE (FEAT. SONYAE ELISE)
Um...what the mother fuck is this? Havoc aims squarely for the female Mobb Deep audience that abandoned them well before 50 Cent entered the picture, dropping this radio-friendly (beat-wise) trifle that even includes an R&B hook. Suffice it to say, the man sounds awkward as fuck, and the song itself is not worth writing about.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Hidden Files is so bad that it feels like I just wasted nine days of my life just trying to slog through the motherfucker. Over the course of fourteen tracks, Havoc completely demolishes any goodwill he had stored up merely by existing as one-half of Mobb Deep, giving the listener song after song of tiresome boasts, weary threats, and bland-as-hell musical backing. Havoc was once considered one of the better producers in the hip hop game at one point: the fuck happened to him? Hidden Files is easily one of the most boring albums I've had the displeasure of sitting through just to continue my ongoing project. Some rappers just aren't built for solo careers: Havoc would be one of them. Which is why it's baffling to me why he forced himself to go it alone on the majority of Hidden Files's tracks; was anyone out there really clamoring for another solo album from this dude? But the worst offense of all is that this album isn't just a waste of time, it's a boring waste of time. There is literally no reason why anyone would ever need to go out of their way to acknowledge this shit's existence. No wonder Hidden Files evaporated from the public consciousness almost immediately upon impact.
BUY OR BURN? Seriously?
BEST TRACKS: “This Is Where It's At”, if I had to choose one, but does it rank with the finest Mobb Deep / Infamous Mobb tracks? Fuck no.
Catch up with both halves of Mobb Deep by clicking here.