More often than not, producer showcase albums can be a crapshoot. Basically, they fall victim to an inherent issue of being loaded with guest features because, really, most producers don’t rap. And that’s especially true of the ones who reach into their little black book (and wallet) to get everyone they can on the record.
What this who’s-who of guests does is undermine what should really be the focal point: the production. Instead, you’ll be left wading through sub-par-to-solid rhymes while trying to zone out and get lost in the beat. Not everyone is built for the idea of releasing an instrumental album but come on, how many times have you listened to a producer showcase project and just thought, “Shit, I’d love to hear this album without all these rappers on it.”
That is more or less the feeling one The Good Life—the latest from German production duo J.R. & PH7—fades out of your speakers. And that’s not a knock; many times it serves as a compliment. The only knock here is in the selection of MCs and vocalists, some of whom either mail in their verses or just sound out of place alongside their guests. And let’s not even indulge Torae calling out bloggers as “fags” on the otherwise fine “Magic”. Sigh.
Sean Price, for example, might have dropped a damn-good album with Mic Tyson, but he could not sound more disinterested opening the album on “Until It’s All Said and Done”. Luckily Skyzoo brings a little more life, but it’s difficult to make up for a flat tire when there are only two wheels. That’s a terrible metaphor, but still. Additionally, on paper, King Mez and Roc Marciano could be a choice pairing given their contrasting styles. But on the contemplative, flourishing backdrop of “Makin’ Moves,” Marciano sounds out of place, even if he’s a good sport shouting out the producers and Mez.
When The Good Life is on, however, it’s fucking on. Phonte and Median sound like an old-school wrestling team on “Goodbye“, perhaps the album’s strongest moment, while Guilty Simpson and Journalist 103 tone down their gully for a refreshing, funky hometown anthem on “Motor City Movin'”. But too often, the guests don’t hold up their end of the bargain while J.R. & PH7 weave their warm, funky, and wholly boom-bap grooves. It’s a damn shame, but I’m personally hopeful that these guys can just produce an entire album for one of their guests and churn out something great. If this was an instrumental affair, we’d easily be rating it one point higher.