March 8, 2001

Rap Lessons

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Taking a break from his profitable bootleg mix tape business, DJ Clue is taking yet another turn towards legitimacy with The Professional 2, his third full release. Once again, Clue gets all of hip-hop’s biggest names to bless the album. This time out, however, he also lets some newcomers join the party. As is the case with any compilation, the CD’s a mixed batch of inspired work and throwaway filler.

The variety of artists, both up-and-coming and established, makes The Professional 2 more of a testimonial on the state of hip-hop than any other album released recently. And like any good testimonial, the album manages to make some strong observations …

It’s time for some inspiration. Many of the biggest names on the disc fall short of their previous heights, instead retreading the same vocal territory they so often tread on their own releases. Hopefully Eminem, DMX and Snoop Dogg each have a master plan to break new ground on their next solo albums, because all three turn in sub-par performances here. DMX lets some weight off his tortured soul, Eminem tells us again why he’s not responsible for society’s woes, and Snoop proves that he really is out to just “Fuck A Bitch.”

Roc really is La Familia. In the wake of Jay Z’s most recent album, as well as high quality releases from Beanie Sigel and Memphis Bleek, The Professional 2 gives even more evidence that Roc-A-Fella may have surpassed Ruff Ryders as the premier clique in hip-hop. Besides its trite nursery rhyme hook, Sigel’s “Coming For You” is threatening in its nonchalant lyrical quality. The team even manages to lift their guest stars’ game, as evidenced by the album’s most powerful cut, a remix of Jay Z’s “Change The Game” which pairs Roc-A-Fella with the Dogg Pound. If the westside duo of Daz and Kurupt had sounded nearly as fervent in their solo work, maybe 1996’s Dogg Food would be known for more than C. Delores Tucker’s complaints.

Female MC’s need a new champion. While the ascension of Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, Missy Elliott and Lauryn Hill seemed to signal the return of women to the status of hip-hop royalty, the gender in general seems to have fallen on hard hip-hop times. Foxy Brown raps worse than I could on “So Hot,” and Lil’ Kim manages to make even Lil’ Ceas sound like a genius with “Chinatown.” Kim and Foxy may not have been rapping their usual freaky sex tales, but their whole style sounds dated. Thankfully, help may be on the way in the form of recent high school graduate Lady Luck, who spits straight battle rhymes, while at the same time answering queries about her rumored sexual orientation.

While these points might seem a little rash on the basis of one CD, they hold water for the game as a whole. So if The Professional 2 does nothing else, it serves as permanent chronicle of hip-hop in 2001.

Archived article by Mike Giusto