Let's face it. For the most part, the current crop of male R&B singers are garbage. When they're not involved in sex scandals with underage girls, most of them are too busy dancing around with their shirts off to elicit any interest from the average Hip Hop fan. Luckily there's Devin the Dude [click to read], who has made an entire career singing and rapping songs about women, weed, alcohol and music. Devin's formula has pretty much banned him from Top 40 radio rotation, but it's kept him respected among those who have given up on traditional emcees or singers.
In addition to his top-notch production, part of Devin's success comes from the fact he approaches so-called taboo subject matter with humor and originality. In the tradition of Redman, and Slick Rick before him, Devin has also shown that he's never afraid to embarrass himself for our enjoyment. The laughs continue on Landing Gear, but they seem to be far less frequent.
Devin is at his best on "I Can't Make It Home" [click to listen]. In his typical everyman fashion, he finds himself regretting too many expensive shots of Patron, as opposed to his usual Crown Royal. When the law inevitably catches him driving drunk, he can neither talk the arresting officer out of taking him to jail nor convince his woman to "go down to the bail bondsman and come up with a few funds." It's a classic Devin the Dude moment that ends with him being hung up on, having his car towed and doing a bid.
Similarly "El Grandes Nalgas" (loosely translated as fully-stuffed butt cheeks) [click to listen] takes the traditional booty anthem down I-35 for a trip to Mexico. The hilariously crass culture exchange produces the following: "So mannish/the thought that goes and stops inside my head/my Spanish is so bad I don't know what the fuck I said." Devin adjusts his traditional 808 boom-bap to mix well with the Salsa-influenced beat, resulting in a song with plenty of replay value.
Unfortunately that's about where the innovation stops on this album. On tracks such as "In My Draws," "Let Me Know It's Real," "Highway" [click to listen] and "Me, You" Devin seems a little too content enjoying his status as an elder statesman in the game. The production is solid, as expected, complete with "that boom" Devin fans have come to expect and live instruments. But neither Devin nor his guests do anything out of the ordinary. Other concepts, such as "Stray" and Snoops Dogg's appearance on yet another I-don't-love-these-hoes anthem ("I Don't Chase 'Em" [click to listen]), just seem stale.
By limiting himself to the same, familiar subject matter, Devin isn't so much competing against other artists as he his against his previous work. And while Landing Gear is a nice addition to his catalogue, it's not exceptional. Instead of an unexpected collaboration like Waiting to Inhale's [click to read] "What A Job" or guilty a pleasure like "Boo Boo'n," Devin keeps things a little too familiar. It's been a little over a year since Devin's last album, and hardcore fans will undoubtedly appreciate some new material. Ultimately album number five finds Devin creatively stuck in cruise control. If you're a casual listener you can't help but feeling as if Devin deployed his landing gear a little too soon.