As long as I’ve been a hip hop fan I’ve been a hip hop apologist. In my lifetime, hip hop has risen from that strange music coming from the nation’s inner city to that inescapable music that rules the world. But the ride has won us no shortage of detractors, famous or otherwise, folks who latch onto the foolish, irresponsible wing of mainstream rap, thinking they’re representative of the values and behavior of the genre as a whole. At times it has been hard to be a hip hop fan; when the abrasive gangsta rap of the early ’90s collapsed into the vapid, money-grubbing bling era, there wasn’t much any sensible hip hop head could do other than retreat to the burgeoning “conscious” underground.
Ever since they hit big off the strength of B.G.’s “Bling Bling” and Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up”, the Cash Money Records crew has been a bad look for hip hop, lurking in the background of our greatest moments like that cousin that shows up drunk and scantily clad to every family reunion. They were embarrassing, yes, but back then, they at least had personality and tunes tucked under their cartoonishly ignorant veneer. Juvenile’s back this year with Beast Mode, a record that retains all the demented irreverence of his earlier work, but almost none of the charm.
Now misogyny in hip hop isn’t a new development by any means, but it appears on Beast Mode in its most base and offensive form, devoid of any of the comedic wit that has kept this kind of music afloat in the past. Beast Mode is beyond humor, featuring raw couplets like “You better change your voice tone/ I’ll beat a ho” on “Bitch Instructions” and “You’re a steak, bitch/ Dinner plate, bitch” on “Pussy Kat”, whose beat is comprised of 808s and girls moaning. Beast Mode is mean spirited, brash, and worst of all, unoriginal. The beats are mostly retreads of early career hits, and the lyricism is equal parts lazy and uninspired.
What anyone is supposed to do while this music plays is beyond me. It can’t be for the girls, at least the ones who don’t like being called a bitch or a ho every twenty seconds and instructed how and where to “Drop that Azz”. It can’t be for the guys either. Any soul brave enough to follow Juve’s “Bitch Instructions” will see jail time. Beast Mode is music by and for the guy that sits at the end of the strip club stage who security has to toss out night after night for touching the girls. If you’re absolutely curious about what this record sounds like, put a mic in your bathroom and order a few burritos. Barring the cornball weed anthem “La La La La La” and the ragged, victorious “I’m Da Man”, both of which show flashes of the witty and tuneful antics that rocketed Juvenile to the charts back when, Beast Mode is a smoldering roadside turd. Steer clear.