Guilty Simpson – OJ Simpson

What do you see in that cover? You see a thick beard and a darkened shadow where there should be eyes; you see a mystery, a masculine, lackadaisical man who isn’t concerned with his image, but rather knows that this picture adds to the bravado of an already spectacular album. Although, stop me if this sounds familiar; a mysterious, older MC with a deep throat and a partially hidden face teaming up with Madlib for a hazy, sample-heavy Hip-hop opus full of sexual villainy and drug-related anecdotes. Yeah, Madvillainy this ain’t, but that doesn’t stop from being the most satisfying, vicious, and just plain best Hip-hop album in quite some time.

It’s no secret that Hip-hop is in a drought: Kanye’s between creatively destructive periods, the ever-overrated Lil Wayne is behind bars, Doom seems to have disappeared since Born Like This, Wale proved that he just doesn’t do albums, Mos is too wrapped up in a successful acting career, and Fiasco is god knows where. Laundry lists of wet-behind-the-ears imitators, from the over-exposed Gucci Mane to the ridiculous OJ, Hip-hop is a shadow of it’s former self, with only Wu-Tang clan members and Talib Kwali willing to fight the good fight. Well, if there was ever a time where Hip-hop did thrive, it was always Summer, with at least one Take Me to Your Leader or Mixtape About Nothing coming to quench our thirst, and now Byron “Guilty” Simpson here to rap in the rains.

He’s not very original, but what he lacks in idiosyncrasies, he makes up for in pure machismo and well-intentioned influences: imagine MF Doom’s ruthlessness combined with the early Jay-Z street king persona and throw in a little bit of Ghostface’s story-telling prowess, and you’ve got Simpson, who looks more like a boxer then a Hip-hop artist. On tracks like “O.J. Simpson” and “Coroner’s Music”, he makes us very aware of his feelings on the current state of the game with lines like “Players need a lesson/find another way to channel your aggression/I’ve seen babies more threatenin'” and “Just don’t compare me please/I’d rather be a corpse than be compared to these whack MCs.” He’s pretty pissed, enough to throw molotov cocktails in cribs, and this neck-slashing demeanor keeps what is actually a rather shoddily-paced album.

The biggest problem with the album is the exact same one that faces many; too many interludes, not enough pure Hip-hop. That’s what made masterpieces like The Blueprint and Madvillainy so refreshing, with an onslaught of on-que hits like “Figaro” or “Takeover”. But Madlib seems to be aware of this, with most of them being focused on humorous segments of stand-up comedy and clips from 70s and 80s black sitcoms. He weaves a workable narrative out of these samples so much that it’s almost like a two-man show between Simpson’s rap attacks and Madlib’s DJ Shadow-esque atmosphere building. It works, if just barely, but then again, I remember a certain album that was too long, too full of between song material, and too unfocused. It was called The College Dropout, and it changed the way we look at Hip-hop.

That’s not to say this one will, but that is to say that the scatterbrain, yet strangely predictable nature of the album (song, interlude, song, interlude, insert mid-album ballad, etc.), actually works. This is an album where comparisons to other’s are not insults, but rather compliments; it’s an album full of  “OOOH!” inducing moments like “My heat do to you what they should have did/Molotov cocktails tossed in your crib/Death to the fake is the only way to live”. This album isn’t out to save Hip-hop, but along with Mos Def, DOOM, and Raekwon, it might a be a part of a Renaissance. Call it optimistic, but when an album like this comes along, it’s hard to not get hopeful.

Score: A-

by Trevor “Is it just me, or does he look like Action Hank” Johnson



  1. 5/21/10 – New Review « Avery Island: Musical Opinions From Music Geeks said,

    […] Guilty Simpson – OJ Simpson by Trevor Johnson […]

  2. Turner said,

    Lil’ Wayne isn’t remotely Hip-Hop. He is fancy-pants commercialized rap with a propensity for thick pubic rolls on his head.

    • averyisland said,

      Lil Wayne is Hip-hop; I didn’t say it was GOOD Hip-hop. Rap isn’t a genre, it’s a style of delivery. But I do agree, while I think he is a good rapper, he’s a terrible, juvenile lyricist and [i]Tha Carter III[/i] is the most overrated Hip-hop album of the decade apart from anything Eminem has released.

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