Beanie Sigel can rhyme. He can tell stories and elicit emotion from the listener. That much has been evident from tracks like “This Can’t Be Life” earlier on in his career. One thing Sigel can’t do, it seems, is stay out of his own way. Soon after the his latest album, This Time, Beans is set to begin his record-breaking 300th prison bid (that’s a rough estimate, in case anyone’s counting closer). Sig’s inability to just keep it moving has made him start his career over time and again, and has caught him notoriety that was his for the taking. The former Roc-A-Fella rapper made headlines not for consistently dropping music, but for either prison stints or having a one-sided beef with Jay-Z (like so many have). Who knows what might have happened had he stayed focused on his career, and not on the peripheral things? Still, even though nothing has changed for Beanie Sigel This Time around, the Philadelphia emcee remains a talented and compelling artist.
On the album’s intro, crooner Oliver Laing hits the notes well, but dips into the cheese a little bit with the over-the-top, R. Kellyesque narration of Sigel’s life. Still, the production is gritty and menacing, and whets the listener’s appetite for the Broad Street Bully’s brand of introspective street raps. Laing joins in again on the album’s title track, which is full of self-reflection, honesty, and a positive outlook over some moody guitars. Akon, who is apparently content these days to spend his time counting the money Lady Gaga and T-Pain have earned him, assists capably on “That’s All I Know.” There are those who like to joke about Akon’s poppier solo music, but when Akon accesses his “Soul Survivor” side, he’s among Hip Hop’s better hook men.
“Bang Bang Youth” has the distinction of proving that it is, in fact, possible to use Junior Reid for something other than sampling his famous song “One Blood.” It’s a good track to boot, with some alien synths and hard-hitting horns that punctuate Beans’ rhymes: “Daytime shootouts, nighttime cookouts / Teddy bears where a nigga got took out / These young niggas run around the ghetto lost / Hanging with three broke niggas, you be the fourth / Fuckin’ with these young bucks, don’t suggest it / Who you was, what you do, don’t impress ‘em / …Like father, like son, they both got an eight / But shorty’s is a weapon, his pops’ is a section / The back room where his two brothers slept in, innocence expected / His pop bangin’ in that vein, and his mom on that cane.” Again, Sigel proves that few can paint a portrait of the streets like he can, placing him in the company of artists like Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, and The LOX.
This Time isn’t Sigel’s strongest endorsement as an emcee—that would be The B. Coming—but it is a testament to his impeccable ability to select production. Production like that on “No Hook” perfectly matches the temperament of Sig’s rhymes, and maximizes the effectiveness of each song. Sigel’s penchant for repeatedly referencing the Notorious B.I.G. (or is he referencing Jay-Z referencing the Notorious B.I.G.?) grows tiresome on This Time. It crosses the line from homage to annoying fandom, and only serves to distract. However, it’s a minor complaint on an album that is stellar much of the way throughout. The Broad Street Bully may be headed to the clink, but he leaves behind an excellent album, which will hopefully sate fans until his parole date.