Album: Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head
Sounds Like: a talented MC spitting ratchet gangsterisms that even he’s obviously bored of (3 out of 5, worth copping the full album on sale or a decent amount of mp3s)
Reviewer: DJ Fusion
“Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head” is by far the most uninspired of Clifford Harris’ official studio album releases.
Now on his 8th album, the Atlanta, GA MC better known to the masses as T.I. seems to be on a mission to get back his throne as the head of this Trap Music Hip-Hop s***.
After having various people kind of talk smack to him about going a bit too pop during the “Paper Trail” era, it seems to have messed with T.I.’s head. From his previous album “No Mercy” to this current project, it feels like T.I. is trying to trend ride something that he actually has been a major part of.
Due to this, what the listener gets is an overlong, bloated and awkward 16 track audio mishmash of mostly mid-tempo tunes where it feels like the MC is going through the motions instead of boldly staking his claim.
While T.I. spits some ill lyrics here and there on “Trouble Man” and still has an impeccable flow, he sounds half asleep throughout the vast majority of this release. Whether he’s talking about being gangster, the need for redemption, struggle or whatever, the brother just doesn’t really sound terribly focused.
On top of all of that, “Trouble Man” ‘s production is woefully ordinary and straight forward, sounding like dusty sonic leftovers. The workman-like beats of Soul, Pop, Funk and southern bounce elements by DJ Toomp, Rico Love, Jazze Pha, T-Minus and more aren’t embarrassing, but certainly don’t help out the MC in any significant way.
The guest appearances on “Trouble Man” feel unnecessary for anything but for the sake of a famous name being in the mix, with the singer roles (done by R. Kelly, Pink, Akon and Cee-lo Green) feeling like they could’ve been sang by anyone who wouldn’t do a struggle note and the MCs (with the exception of Andre 3000) just doing their regular “kick a verse and bounce” thing.
T.I. also veers into the utterly terrible trend of being an MC who can actually afford singers but decides he should attempt to sing AN ENTIRE TRACK with the horrid bootleg Drake/Future autotune hybrid track “Crusin’.
“Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head” is ultimately – and sadly – a huge bore that that talks “G” but signifies absolutely nothing. T.I. is trying to sell gangster rap from the trap but doesn’t even sound like he cares about such things anymore.
Everyone involved in this barely above average project can do better than the amiable but forgettable white noise that is this album. Hopefully, with some focus and inspiration, T.I. will hit it out of the park for his upcoming release.
Personal Favorite Tracks: Sorry feat. Andre 3000, Hello feat. Cee-Lo
Music Video: T.I. feat. Andre 3000 – Sorry
Cooly G first caught the attention a few years ago with the double-hitter “Narst”/ “Love Dub”. The latter of the two was the one that really caught my ear, and meant I have been listening out for Cooly G ever since. ”Love Dub” is a more considered, more soulful take on dubstep – like a dreamscape from which it’s possible to mentally depart the urban landscape it comes from, all set to a groovesome, shuffling rhythm. (Here, take a listen to it – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJbLvzfGUVk.)
On ”Playin’ Me”, the synths are more often to be found gently bubbling and caressing, or swelling and subsiding; rather than the tension-filled pulse, throb and unforgiving shards of sound that much more muscular, and club-orientated dubstep became famous for. The beats don’t simply pound away, they introduce elements of shuffle – albeit nervously-so; these beats almost sound as if they’re unsure of themselves – like they are unused to raising their voice and being listened to. The basslines are very heavily skewed towards the ‘dub’ in ‘dubstep’, whilst at the same time – much like the keyboards are too – giving more than a cursory nod to their Chicago-based musical forebears.
And Cooly G’s voice…some might expect her voice to sound trained, to sound cookie-cutter-‘soulful’, but it isn’t. As a result, though, her voice is more interesting than the hiring of such a voice would ever have achieved, I think. Her voice gets the treatment, studio-wise, in order – I imagine – to cover for some of these weaknesses. In doing so, however, these perceived weaknesses become a strength. The multi-tracking, the echo, the burying of the voice deeper inside the mix, the lack of Auto-tune – they all contribute to a dubbier, more blissed out, even a more old-school ‘poppy’ sound. Her delivery reminds me of some of the reggae and post-punk female voices that emerged in the late 70’s and into the early 80’s – think Althea & Donna, Ari Up (The Slits), or Poly Styrene (X-Ray Spex). It’s a voice full of character, whilst at the same time maintaining an aura of inscrutability. She’s opening herself up for our ears, but keeping the sound slightly muffled in order to retain a part of herself for herself, I feel, which is no bad thing. I think that’s a quite refreshing approach in an era where all female singers seem to have to be the fey-folky-you-can-introduce-me-to-your-parents-and-they’d-hardly-know-I’m-there-but-hear-my-soul-cry type, or the balls-out I’m-emoting-for-you-dammit! type, both of which have their moments where they utterly appal my ears.
The overall effect of what I’ve just described above is an album that draws you in (with the come-on of ”Come Into My Room”, she makes that quite concrete), unlike much of that more renowned dubstep sound – which often relies on its confrontational elements to stand out. This record steps into the spotlight in a much quieter fashion, invites you in with it, then shuts the door so you can experience it in peace. Much of the sound of dubstep has been concerned with directly addressing the man-made fabrication around it, the crumbling edifices of inner-city tower blocks, the unwelcoming traffic and pedestrian architecture, the cold, brutal street furniture that repels you even though you actually cannot avoid its presence. Much of this sound, therefore, contains an element – or in some cases a great deal more than merely that – of strife and provocation, of a puffing-out-the-chest, and saying ‘fugg you, I will not be beaten by the world you have built for me’. There is much to be admired in that, I feel, it is – after all – how we often get to express those very feeling ourselves, those of us from and still living in the inner-cities. This album, though, takes a different route. It strives to enfold, to take you to the side and confide in you in order to make you feel welcome – as if whispering, ‘don’t be afraid of us, we may be inner-city kids, but we have a heart and a brain too’. Indeed, in ”Landscapes”, Cooly G even makes that explicit, with lyrics urging us to, ’Welcome to my world…dive into my mind’. She’s an aural tour-guide, showing you into her loves and losses (lyrically-speaking, especially) then using this tool of disarmament to shepherd you through the urban jungle, pointing out the colours to be found hidden within the greys and the gloom that the people have been forced to live in.
This album is another example, I think, of the UK’s contemporary take on a kind of soul music. It may not sound like r&b, or it may be strikingly different from the likes of Badu or D’Angelo, but it’s that very difference that helps this album to sound so refreshing. For a start, its influences are just as likely to be Jamaican dub and bashment, Chicago and Detroit house, English pop, broken beat, or jungle, as they are the bejewelled history of US soul. Our soul is – as it should be – different. Cooly G can, I think, only get better at the moment, and this debut is an extremely promising beginning….
Video1: Come Into My Room:
Bef note: I did not ask Fubs to do this!
You know there’s the kind of Christmas gift where you actually make something as a gift; knitting a sweater or scarf, say, or sending a boxed container, full of the ingredients for an easy-to-make cake, with enclosed instructions on how to make it? That’s the personalisation, the “thought” that counts – which can sometime really make or break a Christmas gift. Sometimes it’s very sweet for the person to have done it, you think, but the sleeves would only fit an orang-utan, or there’s enough flour in that container to feed the 5,000.
Well, this album isn’t like that. It’s in a category all by itself. Y’see, when we make or receive those gifts, it’s because both sender and recipient are – in some way – intimately connected, they’re a relative or a friend who you think enough of to put some genuine effort in. And that, folks, is the basic error that John, Olivia and chums have made. They seem to think we’re family or friends, when really all we are is a bunch of disparate people all wishing they’d just go away and pretend this never happened.
If you’re a friend or relative of the two of them, it would be perfectly fine – charming, even – to receive this album as a gift. This is the audio equivalent of that jumper with the monkey arms, or the container full of a whole farm’s worth of flour. Sweet, but forever to be consigned to the back of your digital cupboard, collecting binary dust and coming closer and closer to the recycling bin that all unplayed music must one day face.
If you were in the UK, I’d call this pub music – people singing with the aid of a karaoke machine who really ought not to have that right, especially after having had 12 pints of watered down cat’s piss that is masquerading as ‘lager’. It’s not even good enough to appear as a b-side on an act specialising in Christmas kitsch.
’But Fubs,’ you’ll say, ’what about Chick Corea? What about Barbra Streisand? What about Tony Bennett? What about James Taylor? What about Cliff Richard (ok, you won’t say that – nobody would say that)?’ And I’ll simply slap the shyt out of you for even giving a damn.
Harumph. This album is the “bah, humbug!” of Christmas. If you want a proper Christmas, get drunk – you’ll enjoy it much more. And remember, I did this so you don’t have to; that, folks, is my gift to you.
If you really must, here are a couple of tracks (which is kinda like the equivalent of me taking back that gift I just gave you)…..
Video1: I Think You Might Like It:
Video2: Silent Night: