Strong Arm Steady & Statik Selektah – Stereotype
Stones Throw: 2012
Rap music is different now and we should accept that. While it was possible seven years ago to get attention as a verse-and-lyricism-focused rapper, these days, if you’re not a goon, a dude on molly, or a bugged-out teenager, no one seems to give you the time of day. This doesn’t mean it’s the end of lyricism focused hip-hop, but it does mean that this sub-genre is no longer a bastion of stylistic or commercial innovation, but rather a means to keep an older, much-loved style alive. While it no longer sits on the sonic edge, it serves to provide sampling and rapping that should be valued for its nuances rather than its creative strides.
Statik Selektah and Strong Arm Steady’s Stereotype assumes that an east-coast/west-coast collab still means something as a stylistic and regional crossover. It’s formed in the mold of the mid-’90s crew album. It’s not a retro album per se, but only because the form has been stuck in rap’s craw since its 1993 inception in 36 Chambers. Rather than the Wu Tang style, however, Stereotype takes an almost unnecessarily serious tone for an album with very little to say. Interstitial talk defending gangsterisms and the album’s supposed political agenda bookends raps full of braggadocio and drug talk.
Much more interesting, however, are the potential crossovers that the tracklist suggests. David Banner and Fiend, southern rap stalwarts, in the past set at odds with the east-west binary make an appearance on a smooth funk beat, possibly the album’s most distinctive track. Three members of Black Hippy, possibly the year’s most stylistically creative group of rappers, appear on a hyped up Wu-tinged track with a particularly monosyllabic chorus. In this vein the production can be the album’s best feature, accommodating the guests and almost always bursting with life, at times frenetic, cold, or unexpected.
Structurally, however, the album follows the years-stale formula without much consideration for the featured artists involved. While the album’s production is highly considered, it flattens all rapping into an artform based more upon lyrical complexity than personality. For SAS, this is a dream come true. The group sits comfortably upon these beats with well-rapped, if interchangable verses. The same goes for Reks, Dom, and other lyricists featured. For more personality based rappers, however, like Schoolboy Q or David Banner, their flows are flattened to an almost unrecognizable extent. In the end, it’s an album with a well-crafted but disappointing flavor. It should please some hip-hop heads, but if this is what it takes, I’m not sure I want to be pleased.