A producer turned rapper or rapper turned producer is something far different than a rapper/producer. Some freakish individuals can seemingly do no wrong at either end of a tracks’ creation (MF Doom and El-P immediately coming to mind), while others should stick to what made them famous in the first place (I’m thinking Swizz Beats and Eminem). You Need This Music is Virginia-based producer Nottz’s attempt to be thought of as a rapper/producer rather than just a skilled beatsmith who decided to live out his emcee daydreams.
Rather than break into the public world of rhyming by first appearing on a smattering of features, its interesting to note that Nottz has gone in full force with an hour’s worth of raps. And how is he? He may not be a great rapper but he at least sounds like an emcee as opposed to a pretender. With a straight-forward delivery and the hint of an interesting drawl he drops punch-lines, bravado-laced rhymes and stories of his come-up and success, his love for hip hop, respects for the dead as well as a few come-ons aimed at the ladies. No new concepts, flows or witticisms are explored, but the low points never sink down past forgettable and he is a likable guy when he gets honest about his world.
Thankfully Nottz has many talented friends to help him. From Little Brother playing the part of fans singing his praise on “I Do it For Ya’ll” to Royce da 5’9″ spitting razors on “Aint Caught Slippin”, a cast of hip hop who’s-who shows up with assists. Black Milk, Snoop Dog and Joell Ortiz all have appearances that don’t exactly make Nottz look bad but certainly remind the listener that it takes something special to earn a reputation and career behind the microphone.
Even with the high-profile guest spots, You Need This Music’s beats are the real star. You have been wowed by Nottz before, whether you know it or not. He was behind the boards on Busta Rhyme’s “Everybody Rise,” Kanye and Wayne’s “Barry Bonds” and several Xzibit and Snoop tracks through the years. The sample-based cuts come clean and heavy. The bass thumps alongside the drums with interesting melodies adding air to the more soulful tracks (i.e. standout “How Long Will It Last”). Every beat compliments the lyrics and cast a feel-good vibe. You’ll nod your head, turn up your speakers and get caught up in each of the well-produced tracks.
Ultimately, who is to tell a grown-ass-artist what he can do with his own creation? It’s not like records sell anymore, so even with an attached UPC a majority of releases allow the creator to do what he damn well pleases. Sure, the album would probably have been better with Nottz letting the beats speak for him while any of the many superior rappers he has worked with handled the lyrics. But the beats alone warrant a listen and while it won’t be the beginning of rap’s next star, it will stand as an interesting look into the world of a producer who makes hip hop a better place.