On his most recent project, Fat Boy Fresh — For Members Only, Vol. 1, Rapper Big Pooh seemed vigorous, filling the assorted instrumentals with passionate bars of struggle and perseverance, proclaiming his independence as a solo artist and solidifying his presence as a formidable MC. It’s not like the honesty was anything new. As one-third of Little Brother, Pooh was the most streamlined, opting for a raw approach while Phonte’s wordplay was more complex, light-hearted and comical. Still, unlike Pooh’s other projects, Fat Boy Fresh felt like a bona fide declaration, especially since Little Brother’s final album, Leftback, was such an uninspired effort for the popular hip-hop group.
Fast-forward six months, and Pooh’s Dirty Pretty Things is also carried by its resilient stories of determination, except the mood is much more somber and anchored by melancholy. The result is a decent recording that bares the artist’s ravaged soul and warns against social ills, but it’s “I’m gonna make it” theme eventually grows stale, making for a project survived by its candor, yet compromised somewhat by its inferiority complex. But it’s not all about the grind. Elsewhere, Pooh compares hip-hop to a woman — a tried and true method for MCs — on “Right With You”, details his relationship with his incarcerated brother on “Real Love”, and decries the drug game on “Soul Music.”
Sonically, the album begins with furious intent, vacillating between crackling boom bap and triumphant R & B themes before easing to a more comfortable backdrop of sparse soul melodies. On “End Of An Empire”, for instance, Pooh uses a brooding piano-laced composition to discuss “grown man issues.” On “Interdependent”, he utilizes synthesizers and electro-soul to set the album’s tone. “I don’t know where I’mma be five or six years down the road,” Pooh says. “All I wanna know is, is you gon’ ride wit me?” That’s a fair question, but Dirty Pretty Things does little to influence a resounding “yes” or “no” answer. While it’s to be respected for emphasizing real life scenarios, it just doesn’t do enough to hold your attention long past initial consumption. The journey continues.