Even though it only boasts 15 tracks — a feat at time when rappers still push for 20-plus tracks on a record — Self Made Vol. 1 plods along at the pace of an album far longer. As most of us have heard from the record’s numerous leaks, the main cause for this problem is the production. The way it chugs along like Godzilla on his last legs is headache-inducing as each stomp brings another throb to your temples. Sure, the beats are monstrous and you will want to bump the hell out of them in your car with your brain turned off. But when it’s all coming at you for more than an hour, your you will need a Tylenol.
The album slogs through five tracks, from “Tupac Back” through “Fitted Cap”, where the tempo doesn’t change at all. It’s nothing if not completely irritating because it causes you to grow tired of some true gems, such as “600 Benz” and “By Any Means”. This wouldn’t be an issue had Rozay and the boys only chosen some J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League beats or material from Lex Luger that’s as soulful and smooth album-highlight “That Way”. The only hope is that they’re saving those beats for everyone’s forthcoming albums, such as Ross’ God Forgives, I Don’t.
But don’t be fooled. There is enough mindless fun and great production on here to prove Self Made‘s worth. Just Blaze’s brassy, super-celebratory circus on “Self Made” is as infectious as it is appropriate for an opening cut showcasing the MMG’s recent signees: Wale, Meek Mill, and Pill. The beat also allows them and their label boss to shine individually, which is the key to this album’s core issue. When the guys are left to their own devices, Self Made is mostly fantastic. Wale’s candle-lit “That Way” is the clear standout while Pill’s somber “Let Me Go” is a choice example of his versatility. Also, Wale, Meek Mill, and Stalley’s “Runnin’ Rebels” ends the album on a definite high note. But these are exceptions to the rule of the aforementioned monolithic bangers, a few of which are, admittedly, excellent. “600 Benz”, with its laser strings and hair-trigger percussion, is undeniable and the perfect setting for Wale’s shit-talking spree. And “By Any Means”, the crew’s haunting ode to Malcolm X, is a murky banger that stalks rather than pushes and shoves.
As strong as those moments are, the album inherently stumbles because, far too often, the tracks bleed together while everyone adopts Rozay’s methodical flow — sometimes on their own, too, like Pill’s terrible “Ridin’ On Dat Pole”. There is simply no reason for it, especially when Ross appears on almost every track. And it’s not like he is a guy you just forget about — most of his appeal resides in that gigantic, gruff voice of his. But it’s all too much on Self Made, an album that is, perhaps, too cohesive for its own good.