Beanie Sigel has been one of the premier street emcees for over a decade, spitting furious bars with everyone from his Roc brethren to the Roots. Behind his bars and skill set lies the truth of his power as a rapper: true grit. That grit is bolstered by a well-rounded delivery on his latest album, This Time. There are moments of tongue in cheek delivery and light-heartedness which were previously muted. Also apparent is an improvement in song construction and emotional variance.
“Intro” featuring the overly dramatic crooning serves as a framing device but the lack of a Beans verse detracts from the overall effectiveness of the song. Its tone echoes the old Sigel, rife with ghetto melancholy. The first real song of the album, “This Time,” is a soul-infused gem that injects urgency without drama and sets the table for the balance of the album. The streets are no longer beans perpetual reality but a starting truth from which Beans is able to show his becoming.
Akon steps in for an assist on “That’s All I Know” which is lighter in tone musically but a step backward progressively when you refer back to that old shit. But that’s the story of Beans: you wish for his progress but his resistance to leaving the streets behind remains the largest deterrent to his success. It’s what truly makes him a compelling and tragic figure. He draws allegory to many pop aspiratory elements but in the end, he remains mired in hood romance.
“Expensive Taste” flaunts a melodic Beanie Sigel and a song construction that suits his flow. Mentions of higher living and a sweetly-sang chorus complements the song’s mood. The jazzy horn of “Kush Dreaming” is another departure from Beans’ hard knock life rhymes. There’s still murder talk, but the smoothed-out delivery takes the edge off, which in this instance is a good thing. His verses are still tightly wound as he freaks the new rhymes scheme on verse two:
Girls rule the world, that’s what Beyonce/Where your destiny lies, that’s beyond say
Follow Muhammad through his acts, that’s Koran say/Compared to Beans you wack, that’s what Nas say
Call it a comeback, that’s what Todd say/Been the Ghetto Superstar, that’s what Pras say…
Sigel draws all of those things together with a deft facility that is beyond the skillset of most rappers in his lane.
The hard shit returns on “Bang Bang Youth” which addresses the wild streets and the youth that are operating without rules, with no regard for whatever rules the old heads are living by. The low point of the album comes with Sigel’s homage to Biggie Smalls on “Bad Boy Mack.” The song is full of reference to the late, great Notorious. By itself, it’s bad enough but it makes the various Biggie appropriated lines throughout the album stick out even more.
This low point is quickly erased by the growling menace of “No Hook.” The track is grimy, face-frowning malice driven Hip-Hop powered by booming drums and haunting strings. These guttural utterings give way to the high-powered State Property backed acrobatics of “The Reunion.” It’s just like old times as Peedi, Omilio Sparks, Young Chris and Freeway trade mics like it was 1998 over a 70’s sample rhythm. That 70’s feel carries over to the pimped out “Sigel Is What They Call Me,” as Beanie Sigel waxes poetic on that slick shit and the faux Curtis Mayfield crooning.
Young Chris returns along with Game on “Dangerous.” The first verse sounds hauntingly similar to Tupac in cadence and delivery, although Beans is a more proficient emcee. Fallen soldiers, the evils of the prison industrial complex and social ills are the order all three rappers deliver.
This Time is a certified win. Beans delivers an album that doesn’t go as high as some of his near classic offerings but offers personal and professional growth. He keeps the mistakes to a minimum, varies the bpm and is very efficient in execution. Well done.
Out of 5
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