DJ Drama’s third album, Third Power invites an odd paradigm. Littered with dated synths and hi-hat infestations, this twelve-track offering revels in the spirit of 2007 where balling beyond boundaries was the base minimum, even for middle America. The Aphilliates artist bogarted airwaves with his Gangsta Grillz series throughout the aughts, blasting the careers of staple collaborators Lil Wayne, Rick Ross and T.I. into new respectospheres in the process. Third Power harnesses the same formula, only with rising names like J. Cole, Big Sean, Freddie Gibbs, Wiz Khalifa and Wale in place instead. In a sense, it’s an attempted shout to the future despite production feeling more past than present.
Young Chris, Meek Mill and Freeway team-up to drop platitudes on “Lay Low” (produced by Cardiak), as do Fabolous, Roscoe Dash and Wiz Khalifa on the Drumma Boy-produced “Oh My.” “Like Lebron / I’m taking my talents down to South Beach,” Fab kicks on the latter, opening with one of rap’s most overused similes. “Undercover” boasts a supremely lazy J. Cole appearance and a Chris Brown verse describing how his handcuffed tryst tells him he “…can give it her rough / But [he] better not get violent,” immediately inciting horrible images of his angry recent history. And as much as Young Yonny’s raucous “Self Made” backdrop undoubtedly wallops any speaker system in existence, Red Cafe and Yo Gotti’s commonplace commentary falls forty-yards short of compelling.
While Third Power continuously basks in the trite, at its best, it’s an undeniable listen. Crooked I owns one of the LP’s few truly interesting stanzas on “Take My City” – a chant worthy ode to hometown pride featuring B.o.B (produced by Nard & B) that feels as if it could’ve landed on T.I.’s Paper Trail. Akon and Giorgio Tuinfort’s funky chords and handclaps raise “Locked Down” (featuring Akon and Ya Boy) above the loquacious synths and snares drowning the bulk of the album and “Everything That Glitters” (featuring Pusha T and French Montana) benefits from a faultless hook and a welcome injection of introspection. Even Gucci Mane surprises on the Drumma Boy-produced “Me & My Money” – running an extended metaphor where cash is his girlfriend. For Rodrick Davis standards only, it just may be his best rhyming appearance yet.
“Never See You Again” is TP’s ultimate standout. Wale drops mack mode-laced quotables, while Talia Coles‘ soulful vocals float like frankincense over Dawty Music’s flip on Bob James’ “Take Me To The Mardi Gras” (or the beat from Run DMC’s classic, “Peter Piper” as it’s better known in Hip Hop circles) layered lovely with futuristic blips and electronic inflections. It’s a progressive blend of sounds and genres and generations – loaded with replay value, ready-made for respect and mainstream access.
And that’s the odd paradigm invited by Third Power. Track-by-track, sonically it’s redundant, rollicking a few years too late. But in its entirety, it is cohesive, rocking righteously in any party, club or car, even with it’s striking limitations. For everything TP lacks in avant-garde creativity, it supplements with the quintessential, adding up to an absolutely enjoyable collection of cliches. It may be out of touch, but it’s still good.