December 16, 2014

My Gut Reaction: Havoc - 13 (May 7, 2013)

The final cog in the machine that will ultimately bring us to this year's The Infamous Mobb Deep, 13 is Havoc's third solo album, one with a title he must have fucking loved, since this year he went and swiped it for 13 Reloaded, an otherwise-unrelated project featuring all new tracks.  That one I won't be getting to for quite a while, but hey, we'll always have 13, right?

13, released by Nature Sounds, is an album whose gestation occurred at a pretty weird time in Havoc's life.  During the recording process, Havoc broke down and called out his rhyme partner Prodigy on Twitter, levying insults and homophobic comments in his general direction, as rappers are wont to do these days.  Hav told the media that his phone had been hacked, but later admitted that no, he was just really fucking pissed at Prodigy, and had been for quite some time.  It's natural for anyone whose identity is so closely associated with that of a group setting to want to venture out on his or her own, but Havoc torched his bridge with the glee of a pyromaniac, even going so far as to record and release a Prodigy dis track, "Separated (Real From The Fake)", that you two can easily find through a Google search.

However, at the beginning of 2013, Mobb Deep reunited, most likely because of the dollar signs in their eyes that appeared when both men realized that the twenty-year anniversary of their sophomore album, the groundbreaking classic The Infamous, was coming up in a couple of years, and they began touring together.  Hav had a change of heart and removed "Separated (Real From The Fake)" from 13  (although he found it impossible to erase the track's existence from the Interweb), and even invited Prodigy to contribute to a remix to one of the album's actual songs, since the project had already been locked for mastering.

13 continues Havoc's quest to become as known on the microphone as he is behind the boards.  To that end, he actually doesn't produce every track on here: a few of them feature colleagues working alongside him, and a couple of them were ceded to outside acts entirely.  The few friends he invited to the party all line up with Mobb Deep's collaborations of the past, aside from a guest turn from Royce da 5'9", whose inclusion was pretty much Hav's way of claiming that he's aware of current hip hop trends and wishes to capitalize on them just like any other sane rapper today.

13 exists.


1. GONE
Not a bad way to start things off: at least Havoc sounds more invested than he did on Hidden Files. He still isn't the greatest rapper, or even a very good one, but he at least aims to please on “Gone”, as his threats and thug posturing sound pretty good over his beat, which isn't especially Mobb Deep-ish but doesn't have to be, since this isn't a Mobb Deep song. The hook is a bit of a stretch, as the rest of the track has nothing really to do with being “Gone”, no matter which definition of the word you use, but this was still enjoyable enough.

2. FAVORITE RAP STARS (FEAT. STYLES P. & RAEKWON)
What also is a bit of a stretch is including Havoc on a song featuring both Styles P. (of The Lox) and Raekwon (of the Wu-...oh come on, even if you've only glanced at this blog for three seconds you'll know where he's from by now) with that particular title, but if you think about the guests as being our host's favorite rappers, this becomes oddly sweet. Hav's beat is simple but interesting, and he appears to be happily trounced lyrically, as both The Ghost and The Chef run circles around him with their bookends. Sure, I would have rather swapped out Rae for Jadakiss, or The Ghost with Ghostface Killah, but I still liked this one enough. Nothing memorable happens on here, but it was alright.

3. LIFE WE CHOSE (FEAT. LLOYD BANKS)
Havoc reconnects with his former labelmate Lloyd Banks, who is still a member of the G-Unit (a collective that is probably on its last legs, let's be real here, although they're still out there trying, damn it), a crew Mobb Deep was affiliated with for the length of approximately one album, for “Life We Chose”. Over a dramatic instrumental, our host co-produced with FMG, Hav and Banksy wax poetically about the hustling that neither man has to really do, given the fact that they're both successful (one more than the other – guess which is which!) rappers, but claim that they still live through, and even though neither man says anything remotely awesome or awe-inspiring, they're also not awe-ful. Yes, that was a bad joke. They're not all winners, you know.

4. COLDER DAYS (FEAT. MASSPIKE MILES)
At least it isn't called “Cold World”. Havoc's obviously been listening to older Mobb Deep albums, as his performance aims for an in-his-prime Prodigy, but although he doesn't quite hit that mark, he lands on “some of the best rhymes he has ever spit”, which counts for a little. The Hav / FMG beat is alright, if a bit too much, and guest crooner Masspike Miles only chimes in at the end, but his shtick is so tired that it's best to pretend Hav handled this for dolo.

5. GET BUSY
A nice bait-and-switch, as “Get Busy” begins slowly and then starts knocking like Walter White. The title is generic, and yes, it definitely uses the Joeski Love “Pee-Wee's Dance” vocal sample you were expecting, but our host actually does get busy behind the microphone. If you're looking for a valid argument for the existence of a new Mobb Deep album, look no further than Havoc's bars on the first five tracks on 13. Dude sounds pretty good when he feels that he has something to prove. Although all of 13 was recorded while Havoc was trying to prove that Prodigy's a bitch, but hey.

6. EYES OPEN (FEAT. TWISTA)
Just like every other rapper ever, aside from maybe Kanye West, that invites speed-rap king Twista onto a track, Havoc makes the ill-advised decision to match his guest's speedy flow, which, weirdly, causes him to sound slower than usual, reinforcing the man's deficiencies more so than his strengths, because, again, it's not like Havoc is the best rapper around or anything. His beat is okay, though, and the guest turn from Twista is, predictably, a highlight. Havoc returns to spit an unnecessary final verse when the track should have ended after the schooling by Twista, and the hook was insipid, but whatever: for the worst song on 13 so far, it still wasn't terrible. The fuck is happening right now?

7. TELL ME TO MY FACE (FEAT. ROYCE DA 5'9”)
The instrumental wasn't as much of a banger as I had hoped for a song that features a cameo from Slaughterhouse's Royce da 5'9”, a dude I've gone on record in the past as being one of the better unappreciated rappers (by “unappreciated” I mean “dude should be far more popular than he actually is”, folks, relax). That's not to say it wasn't any good: I admire that Havoc was trying something different, and the end result was still pretty interesting. It just didn't hit me in the chest as hard as it should have. Regardless, Ryan's guest verse was nice, and Havoc does his best to not be overshadowed, and actually succeeds, which was quite the shocker. Once again, the hook was a bit of a stretch, but that's a minor quibble.

8. THIS WORLD (FEAT. MASSPIKE MILES)
Here's a major quibble, though: “This World” is fucking boring. Yep.

9. ALREADY TOMORROW
This was also pretty bad, but at least it wasn't dull. “Already Tomorrow” appears to be Havoc's attempt at mimicking what the radio sounds like today, and I have to tell you, it doesn't suit him. He tries to drop some deeper rhymes, but he's undermined by how goddamn gimmicky this shit sounds. Havoc should have sold this beat to a shittier artists for a quick buck.

10. HEAR DAT
Somewhere Havoc made a wrong turn, and 13 started sucking, bad. “Hear Dat” is a valiant, if doomed, effort to right the ship, with a catchy beat that is abandoned by some lazy Havoc writing that explore the exact same territory that every other goddamn song he's ever recorded have already charted. The fuck is happening right now?

11. GETTIN' MINES
Meh.

12. LONG ROAD (OUTRO)
Although he sort-of rhymes, Havoc really uses this outro to thank the deity of his choosing and his circumstances for making him the man he is today. A nice, understated way to close things out, although it does make him a liar, since 13 only contains twelve actual songs. Whatevs.

13. CAN'T SLEEP
13 ends with a Statik Selektah production that sounds emptier than all of the Havoc instrumentals (and co-instrumentals) on here, which is as much praise for our host as it is a potshot at Selektah, who is most certainly capable of better work. Havoc has already checked out of the hotel at this point, reciting his bars with the enthusiasm of a seven-year-old forced to sit through Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line. We're done here.

THE LAST WORD:  13 is a disorganized mess that starts off promisingly enough, if not musically, at least lyrically.  He'll never go down in history as one of our genre's best, but Havoc proves that all of his years working alongside some of New York's finest didn't go by wasted.  So it's too bad that the beats on here don't mesh with the proceedings: it's almost as though Hav challenged himself to use up a bunch of beats he had sitting on his hard drive that he hadn't been able to previously sell.  He's a shadow of his former self, but a shadow who still believes in putting in the work, which is appreciated.  However, what Havoc really needs to do is gather a bunch of his friends (and Prodigy, because hey, what the hell) and release a The Chronic-style compilation project showcasing his beats: at least that would earn the man some good karma.  God, do I have to think of everything?  Here's a fun game: in the comments section, list some of the best non-Mobb Deep production Havoc has had a hand in, and we'll see if that idea has legs.  But yeah, maybe don't buy 13.

B-SIDE TO TRACK DOWN: “LIFE WE CHOSE (MOBB DEEP REMIX)” (FEAT. PRODIGY)
Released shortly after 13 hit store shelves in a weak attempt to convince the consumer that Havoc and Prodigy had kissed and made up. It adds an odd postscript to the project as a whole: since our host was in a different mindstate when he recorded 13, this remix may show that he's a secure-enough guy to let bygones be bygones, but it also alters the listener's perspective on Havoc's final product, as his efforts to distance himself from his partner-in-rhyme are deflated by, I don't know, actually working with his partner-in-rhyme. Mixed messages much? However, it is much more satisfying to hear Cellblock P than Lloyd Banks, as the guest star virtually erases all traces of his predecessor over the same instrumental, and our host is kind enough to provide a different verse (curiously, and conveniently, eliminating the “faker than the Twitter beef” line from the original take). Actually not bad, although it could have been much better.

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Havoc's over here, and Mobb Deep as a duo is found over there.


41 comments:

  1. Hav's beats on Cormega's The Last Testament are some of his better beats and.........damn, u got me thinking now, Max.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do you mean "Killaz Theme"? Because that is a good one.

      Delete
    2. Thats the one. I thought he did more on there.

      Delete
    3. He DID do more.
      Thun & Kicko, a fantastic Jay-Z diss by Prodigy. And Mega dissed Nas on it, too.

      Delete
  2. And he also did a couple beats on the Illy Funkstaz album that were really good.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Last Day by Biggie? Not necessarily amazing but a solid beat

    ReplyDelete
  4. Havoc did Why - Jadakiss
    Also G-unit's got a current banger, 'Watch me'
    'Last Day' by biggie
    And Havoc was the man behind Black Rob's 'I love you baby' off No Way Out

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "I Love You Baby" is one of Puff Daddy's best songs (and yes, I realize it's also credited as a Black Rob song on Life Story), easy.

      Delete
  5. His joints off the Noyd EP & It Was Written along with Hoodlum, It's the Pee '97, Play IV Keeps, Killaz Theme, Back At You off the Sunset Park OST, CNN's Illegal Life & of course, the War's On by RSO (FUCK BENZINO)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed, fuck Benzino.

      Delete
    2. Pretty much every Havoc beat off of that Noyd Episodes Of A Hustla EP deserves to be ranked among the finest he's ever done. Yes, even "All Pro", which I understand is polarizing for some weird reason. I happen to love it.

      Delete
    3. The beat for episodes of a hustler should've been used on Hell On Earth, imagine the Mobb going over that (no disrespect to Noyd but with two more accomplished rappers that song could be classic)!

      Delete
    4. I fucking LOVED that Sunset Park song. Prodigy's performance was fucking GENOCIDAL.

      Delete
  6. Live Nigga Rap and The Set Up from It Was Written.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Infamous Mobb's war. Perhaps they could do another album with him? Surely they still talk right?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do you mean Havoc and Infamous Mobb, or the various members of Infamous Mobb amongst themselves?

      Delete
    2. I meant Havoc and the Mobb, sorry for not clarifying. They could make an enjoyable album, it works for Killarmy; good beats, repetitive lyrics and posse cuts. Though even if you don't agree with that surely War is one of his finest?

      Delete
    3. http://hiphopisntdead.blogspot.com/2009/09/infamous-mobb-special-edition-december.html

      Already beat you to agreeing.

      Delete
    4. Oh. Apologies.

      Delete
  8. Foxy Brown - The Promise
    OGC - Suspect Niggaz

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was waiting for someone to mention that OGC joint.

      Delete
  9. Havoc rarely worked outside of Mobb Deep and the beats he gave others were 95% weak shit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually, a quick Google and Discogs search shows that he's sold plenty of beats outside of the immediate family. Although I do agree that the majority of hie best work appears on Mobb Deep albums.

      Delete
  10. These are great examples. Keep it going.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I happen to like "We Don't Give A..." by Infamous Mobb. Gothic!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Maximus, bite the bullet and review Prhyme. It's like the album was crafted with you in mind: no skits, short and to the point, Preem and Royce (with Adrian Younge), + a Schoolboy Q feature & Slaughterhouse??
    Album is fire from start to finish. Been enjoying repeated listens.

    Oh, and the best Havoc productions outside main albums? probably live nigga rap, killaz theme, oh and I'm not sure if this is legit, but it bangs:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLi_ZMgbS2s

    Bloodshed and War by da Youngstas feat Mobb Deep also bangs (co-produced by Havoc). One of the earliest I believe.

    I'm a fan of La the Darkman City Lights (prod. by Havoc) although the lyrics suck. Method and Red I'm Dope Nigga also bangs. Legal Money by Shaq feat Mobb and that Tyrone Wheatley song kinda suck

    Blake

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I forgot that Hav produced that Meth and Red song: I actually like that one quite a bit. As for the first part of your comment: be patient. I have a plan.

      Delete
  13. Here's a weird entry that I personally like: Diddy's "The Future". Yes, Puff fucking Daddy. It's strange and highly enjoyable. Also, Pharoahe Monch wrote the song, so it's hilarious to hear Puffy mimicking Monch's flow. Hav's beat is essentially anti-Mobb Deep, but still works.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think Lloyd Banks' "Ain't No Click" has a great Havoc beat too, it's church bells and bat noises even make Tony Yayo sound good, which is something no other instrumental I rember ever did.

      Delete
    2. "So Seductive" made Yayo sound good. So did "Like My Style". Yayo's trash, but don't give Hav that much credit.

      Delete
    3. Have you even heard either of those two songs ever? Yayo is barely on "Like My Style" and besides it a shit song, as is "So Seductive".

      Delete
    4. lol Let me keep "Like My Style" for my college memories. You can have "So Seductive." And let's not speak of Yayo ever again

      Delete
    5. Actually, I stand corrected, there's exactly one Tony Yayo performance which is neither complete shit nor backed by a Havoc beat. But I suppose we've indeed over-discussed the man's career, so let this be the end of that, lest "Thoughts of a Predicate Felon" becomes some sort of ironic hipster cult classic.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jl9-cbWKFAc

      Delete
  14. This one is pretty nice too.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxmZu2Zif58

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'm surprised no one mentioned "Welcome To Hell" by Bad Meets Evil (Em & Royce). One of Havoc's best beats in YEARS!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i would have mentioned it if it wasn't cheeks

      Delete
  16. I digged the beats he made for LA the Darkmans album, especially City Lights.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Although it's holy shit amounts of repetitive, I really like the beat to Somebody Done Fucked Up.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Suprised nobody mentioned, Don't Need Your Love" by The Game.. I love that beat, Great use of sample and Game sounds awesome on it aswell

    ReplyDelete
  19. Suprised nobody mentioned, Don't Need Your Love" by The Game.. I love that beat, Great use of sample and Game sounds awesome on it Suprised nobody mentioned, Don't Need Your Love" by The Game.. I love that beat, Great use of the Mary J Blige sample and Game sounds awesome on it aswell

    ReplyDelete