Credit Kurupt, if for nothing else, with maintaining a presence in the music scene. From gathering an impressive array of artists on The Academy to finally getting the HRSMN project really going, one of the few artists that survived the fall of Death Row Records is still putting in considerable work. Penagon Rydaz is an extension of that work ethic, but presents the age old argument of quality over quantity.
With “Gotti,” Kurupt sets a no-nonsense tone for the album, utilizing his snarling delivery to lay claim to his stake in West Coast Hip Hop history: “Turn into what you was born to be indeed / Big dogs, up against these ticks and fleas / One footprint, big as King Kong / Greatest West Coast rapper they actually ever known / With the exception of Big Snoop, Cube, I’m alone / Sittin’ on the motherfucking throne … / I shapeshift my bones, create my own zone / Penagon, everytime, two to your dome.” While it’s not a lyrical massacre by any means, the conviction with which Young Gotti spits—something of a rarity in his repertoire over the past decade and a half—will make the listener take note.
“Massacre Central” is Exhibit A that this album is best relegated to the headphones, as Dame Grease comes off the milk carton to deliver a sinister beat complete with dramatic choir notes and a very light minor guitar loop that really adds nuance to the sound. Unfortunately, all subtle shades of sound go out the window with the cookie-cutter “I’m Out Here,” which is as cliché in execution as it is in title.
“Take it Off” truly deserves its very own paragraph, and in a good way. DJ Quik blesses this insanely funky track, which displays the rapport that that Quik and Gotti showed on Blaqkout. It’s a mix of Funk, Disco, and energy that shows, clearly, that this old Dogg Pound Gang member has learned a few new tricks. It’s easy to see Snoop rocking over a cut like this, but Kurupt really surprises with this one. It’s easily the album’s highlight, and definitely deserves some spins on the airwaves or at the club.
The album’s lighthearted tone quickly dissipates with “Real G’s Stand Up,” as Y.A.—a group signed to Kurupt’s label—shines over menacing percussion and otherworldly synths. Sure, the subject matter is a tired retread, but Y.A.’s members have distinct voices that could potentially help them carve out a place in the Cali Hip Hop scene. The same, though, can’t be said for all of Kurupt’s artists. “Distance” is, for lack of a better word, absurd. Is Trini Savah a rapper? Is she singer? Is she both? It’s not clear, but what is clear is she isn’t competent at either. This track almost evokes memories of T-Baby’s “It’s So Cold in the D” (for those uninformed, do yourself a favor and YouTube that classic).
While Kurupt’s compilation project Penagon Rydaz isn’t as bad as some other West Coast offerings that have come out in recent years (Cali Iz Active, anyone?), it doesn’t escape the “thrown-together” feeling that so many of these projects have. Kurupt only sounds inspired on half of the album, and he’s the one who’s supposed to be carrying it. The production is inconsistent, and really won’t inspire the listener to give it multiple spins. Put it this way: why would you listen to this over Blaqkuot, or something from Death Row’s heyday?