In a year chock full of collaboration projects, a mélange featuring New York’s rapper-of-the-moment French Montana and down South vets Three-Six-Mafia and Project Pat seems like a pan-regional love fest just oddball enough to work. North meets South chased with a healthy dose of goon fun. Unfortunately, if the regrettably cut-and-pasted album cover for Cocaine Mafia is any indication, this is a joint that needed a bit more rumination before release.
Cocaine Mafia opens with dialogue from Hip Hop’s requisite gangster flick, Scarface, “We gotta expand/The whole operation. Distribution/New York, Chicago, LA/We gotta set our own mark/and enforce it.” Commendable, albeit trite goals. The cast delivers on its individual parts on the lengthy 17-track set: haunting, guttural beats, plenty of chest-thumping and Juicy J’s shrieking “Shut the fuck up!” ad libs. There’s no shortage of quippy one-liners like “Speak in dollar signs/you might need a translator” on “Catch Ya Later” or woozy, drug and sex-laden fare (“All She Wants Is Money”). French Montana’s smooth and even flow serves its purpose but sometimes falls flat lyrically. “I bes the bomb like the Taliban”, he raps in a particularly low point on the underwhelming “Self Made” featuring Akon.
Contrast this with Three-Six-Mafia and Project Pat’s deft, hilarious and entertaining rhymes and things get easily muddied instead of being complementary. Fun, strip club-ready cuts like “Helicopter” and “Weed & Hennessy” work because they’re reminiscent of classic Three-Six/Project Pat instead of trying to create an inorganic new blend. “Out like Chief Wahoo/hoo/Take a pull then I pass it back to you/you/Hennessy and some coke in my cup man/Pull that penis out my broad gone suck man,” Project Pat raps on the latter track. Half-joking, half-dead ass serious, it begs us to impatiently wonder when the next full effort will drop from the Memphis cadre.
Cocaine Mafia is not an all-around bad album, but rather, the sum is less than the disparate parts. It works in theory – points should be given for attempting to bridge sonic boundaries – but loses it in execution. Sometimes leaving your hood isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
DX Consensus: “Just a Mixtape”