Bizzy Bone - Crossroads: 2010
Record Label: Sumerian Records
Release Date: August 24, 2010
I can remember when rap was good. It has been a while, but I still remember. The East Coast vs. West Coast thing was creating a lot of waves but also creating a lot of good music. Puff Daddy was still called Puff Daddy and Puff Daddy and the Family was all over the airwaves. Suge Knight was dangling people over balconies, looking for loose change and a signature. The Tupac and Biggie rivalry was all people in the music biz could talk about. To this day, Biggie and Tupac are arguably the two best rappers ever. And mixed up in all this was the next big rap group, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Their debut EP, Creepin on ah Come Up, spawned their first big hit, “Thuggish Ruggish Bone.” Their first full-length, E. 1999 Eternal, was the defining album for the group, with hits like “1st of tha Month” and “Tha Crossroads.” Eventually, Bone Thugs went by the wayside, just like most of Puff Daddy’s aliases and relationships, but the absence of limelight created some solo albums from the members of the group.
Most notable was probably the solo career of ever-enigmatic Bizzy Bone. I remember him recording lyrics from prison, before Shyne made it cool. His first album, Heaven’z Movie, debuted in 1998, and “Thugz Cry” was everywhere. It peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and No. 2 on the R&B/Hip Hop charts. Eventually, the album was certified Gold, and we had ourselves the next big rapper - or did we? Since his debut, he’s released 11 albums on nine different labels, each subsequent album making less and less of a splash. In August 2010, he released his most recent album, Crossroads: 2010. I never listened to his solo albums, other than his debut, but label-hopping and putting out an album almost ever year since 2001 made me question how good this record could be. The outcome? Not so good.
If the previous solo albums were a testing ground for what he wanted to say and what he wanted to sound like, I can only imagine the turns that were taken to end up with this album. It’s not weird. It’s not flamboyant. It’s not ground-breaking. It’s just not good.
When looking at the spec sheet that his new label, Sumerian, sent me, the three things that hopped out at me were the guest appearances by Jonny Craig (of MacBook fame), Devin Oliver (I See Stars) and Danny Worsnop (Asking Alexandria). My first thoughts were Bizzy was trying to capture a different audience (hence why I’m writing the review on AP.net) or they all love to smoke a lot of weed. Maybe both. There’s not much to say about the record, but here are a few:
The guest appearances were the best parts of the album, and that’s saying something. On “Bottled Up Like Smoke,” Jonny Craig’s “Istillfeelher PartIII” is sampled (not re-recorded for the song), so it’s more of two guest appearances and a sample. Personally, I loved Craig’s “Istillfeelher PartIII” so it made the track somewhat enjoyable. “Cowboy” features Devin Oliver, and I immediately gravitated to the chorus/hook. Both artists sound overproduced on the track, but Oliver’s vocals make the song memorable - barely. “Automatic Rewind” features Danny Worsnop, and in a song that lacked something memorable, the chorus kept me listening for the remaining three minutes of the track.
In the end, many of the songs ran together like a really old tattoo that you don’t really like anymore. There were a few bright spots. “The Soul” has a decent beat. “Army on the Way” had a nice little subtle reggae beat. For me, “Gangsta Music” sounded the most like old Bizzy and old Bone Thugs. On most of the tracks, Bizzy’s nasally vocals, which were once part of his defining sound, have turned into more of a grating sound, like a high-pitched animal noise of some kind. For people that hate Lil Wayne’s voice, Bizzy Bone is almost the Chipmunks version of that on this record. In fact, there are several tracks where the vocals sound like Jimmy Fallon in the “Barry Gibbs Talk Show” skit on SNL, or even a Dave Chappelle skit, except it’s not funny or endearing. On “American Soldier,” I felt like his late patriotism was reminiscence of a Toby Keith song, but no matter what, I’ll always hate Toby Keith more. In spots, he still has lines that no one will ever understand, so if you dig that, you might dig the album.
I felt like the album was put out for the sake of putting out an album. If his goal was to try and average an album a year, he’s getting close. He hasn’t been relevant for over ten years, so this couldn’t be an attempt to stay on the radar. He’s so far off the radar at this point that Tom Hanks had a better chance of being heard stranded on that island in Castaway. It’s a shame; I always used to dig his rhyme scheme, his flow, his swag and embraced the indecipherable lyrics that once made him awesome. In an attempt to revisit that, a la E. 1999 Eternal and “Tha Crossroads,” I gave Crossroads: 2010 a listen. I much prefer the original, and I’m sure you will, too.