How many times have we seen the top flight rapper and the crew of cronies he attempts to put on that everyone knows just wouldn’t make it by themselves? Oochie Wally aside and a very dope chant on “Made You Look,” do you really take the Bravehearts seriously? Remove the star that became Lil Kim and Junior Mafia isn’t really that good. But then you have The Outlawz. You know, those guys that used to rap with Tupac? No one has ever really believed that those guys belonged on the mic with the great Mr. Shakur, especially cosigning on “Hit Em Up.” After 15 years without ‘Pac and many trials and tribulations, the crew drops their final album, Perfect Timing.
The album features the three standing members EDI Mena, Fatal Hussein and Young Noble, with guest appearances from former member Kastro, Tupac collaborators Scarface and Krayzie Bone, and grizzled veterans Tech N9ne and Bun B and as well as underground grinders Trae Tha Truth and Z-RO and crew of rising rappers to get it popping. Crooner Lloyd shows up twice as well as the hidden talent Tony Williams.
One thing readily apparent is the growth in the Outlaws music. The album as a whole is very polished with a slick sound that isn’t quite commercial but is definitely professional. Their bars are efficient and smooth. You won’t be wowed by anything lyrically on the album but they are far more than place holders. “Keep It Lit” is the first standout track on the album with its steady drum and dirty bassline digital strings and sneaky keyboard work hoist some solid songwriting. Complete with radio ready hook. Young Noble spazzes out with grimy defiance on “Pay Off;” calling to the spirits of fallen comrades Khadafi and Tupac.
Lloyd slows the pace of the album with the Scarface- helmed “Pushing On.” Face mails in a verse and The Outlawz don’t really need him as they talk of progression and growth while staying true to yourself. “Real nigga music is back, turn it the fuck up,” roars Young Noble on the very dope “Tell Me Something Good.” The song is feel good music fit for drop tops and sunny skies with a melodic hook, crooned with that melodic thuggery that conjured that Tupac feel.
“Remember Me” with singing by Tony Williams is the emotional high point of the record with a spare piano s the main sound, garnished with high-key ivory and brushed cymbals on the breaks. The track speaks to the steadfast determination of the group to soldier on in the face of trials and tribulations. They speak of the dead and of memories and of being there for family and comrades. Family and God are the focus of Noble’s closing verse noting, “I want ya’ll to remember we always stood for something,” something that unfortunately not many rappers can say these days.
Maxwell’s bitchly wail from the opening of “This Woman’s Worth” is flipped for the ode to those thug loving hood women on “Don’t Wait.” The ever elusive hustler can’t seem to stick around long enough to be a family, but he loves her enough to tell her not to wait up for him. Ah the conundrum of ghetto love. Krayzie Bone delivers a crisp multi-flowed, melodic verse in the tradition of Bone.
All is not roses on the album. “Once in A Lifetime” doesn’t really fit the overall narrative. The crew is enticing chicks with no regard for who their man is and flaunting their celebrity status to star stunt is for younger cats, not vets. “So Clean” is the Outlawz version of trap music complete with candy paint references, 26 inch rims and snare drums. “100MPH,” with Bun B and Lloyd, is similarly dated even it has that feel good vibe.
In the end, the Outlawz finally proved that they had legitimate talent and the irony of Perfect Timing, is that they shined brighter without the guests, toting the chips of 15 years of naysaying and struggle. They are solid lyrically, confident in their flow and their veteran approach to crafting this album is evident. With this album standing as perhaps their last gasp as a group, it was Perfect Timing to put to rest any nothing that they were Tupac tagalongs. They succeeded.
Out of 5
Follow Us on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/planetill
Follow Odeisel on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/odeisel
Join Us on the Planet Ill Facebook Group for more discussion
Follow us on Networked Blogs