Smif-n-Wessun’s General Steele really needs no introduction. But, damn it, he sure does deserve one. When he first appeared on Black Moon’s phenomenal debut Enta Da Stage with Tek, hardcore hip-hop heads knew the game was ready to be altered. And from then on, Tek and Steele, whether as Smif-n-Wessun or as Cocoa Brovaz, maintained their firm stance in East Coast rap community with four good-to-great albums under their belts. And, of course, they both also appeared on Boot Camp Clik records as well as anything else they could spit on. Now, Steele is taking some time to shine on his own, to an extent, with Welcome to Bucktown, a solid but flawed soundtrack that doubles as a concept record portraying life in Brooklyn.
But, for better or for worse, you lose touch of the concept behind the album once the tracks continue play. The reason behind that is that many of them fly by, which is a welcome change at a time when most hip-hop albums are plagued by tracks that chug along slowly. And even at 46-minutes, which isn’t that short, Welcome to Bucktown is a steady, well-paced listen from the grimy, epic intro “Welcome” through the upbeat closer “Things Are Getting Better”.
Instant standouts that will stay with you for several months are what accelerate this record. Besides the aforementioned joints, you will be safe in repeating the hazy posse cut “No Sleep ‘Til Bucktown”, the funky-as-hell “A Toast to Brooklyn”, and even “Dreams”, a somewhat poppy, though inspiring track that just works. It also features a solid beat from 7VEN H.D., who slowed the same loop used for Joe Budden’s Padded Room-opener “Now I Lay” with equal force. But those tracks are balanced by weaker joints like “I’m From Brooklyn”, which features a killer chorus but an average beat from J Scrilla, and “Hometown”, a run-of-the-mill joint that fails to find its footing. The same goes for “Riot” and “Bucktown Affiliates”.
Although there are no true duds, per se, there are a few songs that drag, mostly thanks to lackluster production. Also, this hardcore N.Y. hip-hop isn’t for everyone, particularly those tired of homophobic clichés and weak punchlines. But both of those nagging qualities aren’t exactly prevalent nor are they overpowering enough to call for a quarantine of Bucktown.