In 2009 Dallas rapper Dorrough had a huge hit – by Dallas Rap standards anyway – in “Ice Cream Paint Job.” The track cracked the Billboard Top 40, peaking at #27. It’s no surprise why the song was so popular. It was, like the confection of its title, a fun treat packaged as an uncomplicated, doggedly repetitive track gleefully free of substance. It might have been asking too much for a rapper from a region not known for producing huge national hits to repeat that feat on his second album, Get Big. And it doesn’t appear that Dorrough’s sophomore album has a hit of that magnitude, but what’s more regrettable is that it sees him failing to evolve at all.
Opener “Sold Out” features a stuttering beat, crunchy guitars, and intermittent video game blips. The chorus of “Already sold out” is clearly about selling tickets/records/etc. because Dorrough isn’t worried in the least about artistic integrity. And that’s fine, but that needn’t stop him from also being concerned with writing better lyrics and creating songs that don’t all bleed together. Dorrough has a big, dynamic voice and a winning personality, but it’s not enough to make up for a depressing dearth of hot lines. Next up is the title track and current single, “Get Big.” Former Yung Joc hit-maker Nitti does a great job of recreating the sound Mannie Fresh popularized with the Big Tymers, right down to the pausing delivery of the chorus, where Dorrough’s affable confidence is enough to carry the song. “M.I.A.” is a song that boasts a memorable chorus and attempts to show a more sensitive side of the Dallas rapper and is, for the most part, successful. Dorrough expresses the desire to get away from the stress of everyday life and seeks refuge in religion and weed. But the atmosphere is ruined by lines like “You can’t walk without crawling first / You can’t stand without falling down / And when you down on the ground / Stand back up on the mound and then swing hard,” which show both a reliance on platitudes and a fundamental misunderstanding of the game of baseball. Though to be fair, I am sure Dorrough knows you don’t swing from the mound and that may be more irritating – he just couldn’t be bothered to correct the line. Unfortunately, that lazy lyricism mars many tracks on the album. On “Si Si I Like” he indulges in the corny, delayed punch-line style currently in favor with Drake and Big Sean: “Shakin’ that monkey / Make me want to go bananas / Let me see you throw it back, Joe Montana.” Further along, “My Name” features just one of the many times the Texas emcee raps a word with itself” “Out of work like Craig on Friday / But I get paid like every day Friday.” And on risible first single “Hood Chick Fetish” he unleashes this extremely ugly (and unoriginal) phallic image: “She ain’t tryin’ to be a model but she look like a bottle / Put lil’ mama on a flyer have everybody there / So I’ma get it goin’, get it goin’ / Tryna take her to the spot so I can hit her with this midget arm.”
“Hell of a Night” and “In the Morning” are two bright spots on the album. The former is an unhurried account of a night out whose breezy attitude is far more welcome than more abrasive “going out” which seem to think they can badger you into having a good time. The latter with its synth string lines and syrupy female vocals create a suitably sunny environment. Though unfortunately Dorrough feels the need to amend one of his punch-lines with the line, “That’s a joke not a real statement / And you know it’s going down like a real basement,” which just leaves the listener distracted with wondering was a fake basement would be like.
The guest appearances are, for the most part, disappointingly forgettable, but given the list of collaborators that’s not especially surprising. Jim Jones delivers a few bars about having a bunch of money in an uninteresting way on the otherwise energetic club-ready “Get Em Live.” Ray J is totally unmemorable fulfilling his role as the budget R&B dude of the moment on the album’s worst track “Breakfast in Bed.” Yo Gotti does a decent, if serviceable, job of describing the titular character on “Hood Chick Fetish,” a track whose grating, repetitive chorus will have all but the most patient listener jabbing the skip button. Slim Thug’s generic “I’m in your girl” verse on “Handcuffs” is more distressing because he is capable of much better. The only standout, as far as guests go, is Juvenile whose closing, double-time rap on “Way Better” is by far the most exciting moment on Get Big.
Maybe it’s asking too much to expect clever lyrics or a range of musical styles from a rapper who is so clearly focused solely on commercial success. After all, if his goal is to sell it’s not hard to argue that the path of repetitive, simple music is the easiest way to get a little fame. But to build a career, to have a string of hits, it helps to be versatile and clever. And that’s something Dorrough just doesn’t seem interested in being on Get Big. Maybe he will be next time when this album fails to achieve the promise of its title.