Gang Starr fans who heard about Guru’s solo project were probably excited. I mean, just looking at the production team is almost enough to cop the album. Alchemist, DJ Spinna, Ayatollah, Pete Rock, DJ Premier, Biggest Gord, P.F. Cuttin, and Stoupe laid down some joints for Baldhead Slick and his click to rhyme to. Put your keys back on the wall, though, because the pool of mediocrity in the production, as well as the plague of subpar guest appearances, will make you think twice about wasting your gas. The most important question to think about as Guru entered his solo project was, “Can I truly survive on a 19-track LP (that’s not Jazzmatazz) without every beat being created by Premier?” And every single Guru fan had to ask themselves the same question. It depends upon which crowd Guru is trying to appeal to. If he plans on pleasing the gangsta rap crowd, the same cats who would still buy a Ruff Ryders or Mo’ Thugs compilation album, then yes. If his idea is to make music for the heads that have bought his music for over a decade, then no.
It’s not so much as that he’s just turned wack over time, but instead, there’s so much monotony and studio gangster lyrics that’s it’s one of the few Landspeed releases that’s just too hard to enjoy. Take the album cover, and the artwork on the CD itself. You’ll see Guru in an attempt to pull off some tough guy poses, while he’s on the CD showing off his tattoos. Since when was this Guru? It’s almost as if Guru is doing what Q-Tip did right before A Tribe Called Quest broke up. Guru is going out on a complete limb and making music that his true fans simply don’t want to hear. This dark, dreary cumulus cloud does have a silver lining, however. The production is a little above decent all the way through the album, which is what dilutes this tall glass of monotony into something that we can all swallow a little easier.
The bangers are “Back 2 Back” produced by Premier who laid down some dope cuts for the beat, too. “In Here” is the b-side to Guru’s first 12-inch, sporting an ill beat by Alchemist and some decent guest appearances by Timbo King, Killah Priest, and Black Jesus. Ayatollah most definitely knows how to lay a beat down, and proves it with “Cry”. The song title has you hoping that Guru will come more diverse, maybe on a more emotional topic, but no luck. It’s actually one of the better songs on the album because he’s solo and not surrounded by three or four of his click. Pete Rock is up against Stoupe for the best production on the album. The Pete Rock produced “Pimp Shit” features Kaeson and Kreem.Com, who both bring a nice flow to the song along with Guru, and spit pimp-inspired lyrics over the perfect beat. Stoupe continues to show that he’s a true beatsmith with “War Tactics”, which is the best song on the album quite easily. The guest appearances are on point with New Child, who spits perfect over the quick beat, James Gotti and Tha Outlawz’s Fatal Hussein. The chorus includes some dope cuts with samples from Vinnie Paz and Esoteric, plus sound effects in the beginning and end are perfect.
Unlike “War Tactics”, almost the entire remainder of songs on the album exhibit poor thuggish lyricism that doesn’t mix too well with Guru’s sometimes passive voice. For long time fans, this album is certainly going to be something out of the norm for Guru, yet it’s nothing new to the hip-hop genre. If Guru would have spent less time trying to prove he’s a hustling thug, and spent more effort toward punking fools like he does on Step In The Arena, it would surely have been a respectable album.
Reviewed By RhymeLife.Com for HipHopHotSpot.Com