A common misconception divides many of today’s Hip Hop fans. On one side of the aisle, there are those who believe that an artist has to be positive in order to be dope; the other side believing that big words and catchy metaphors about the lifestyles of the rich and famous make for a dope MC. The answer lies somewhere in the middle. All “positive” or “conscious” MCs aren’t dope and all the dope boys aren’t wack. There are plenty of MCs on both sides of the spectrum that are great and others that are great at being terrible.
Unfortunately for Island Def Jam, their newest find, Rocko, falls in the latter category. To say that his major label debut, Self Made is an abomination is an insult to the word “abomination.” Backed by the radio friendly “Umma Do Me,” Rocko proceeds to tell the world what separates him from a number of unnamed persons. Granted, “You make it sprinkle/I make it tsunami/You get chump change/But I get money” aren’t going to fly in the ciphers, there’s still a standard of lyricism that should go into crafting certified “club songs.” In addition, “Umma Do Me”–from the delivery to the adlibs–sounds like a Young Jeezy throwaway. If swagger jacking was a crime, Rocko would get the death penalty.
Self Made boasts production from many of the game’s current A-listers, including Cool and Dre, Jazze Pha, and DJ Toomp. In spite of the heavy hitters behind the boards, Rocko‘s lyrical deficiencies are impossible to ignore. The radio friendly “Busy” will be enough to replace “hustling” or “grinding” as the streets new buzz word for having a lot of shit to do. “I be busy in the trap, I be busy moving packs/I be busy handling business, I ain’t got time for all of that,” he raps. The song will without a doubt resonate with people who don’t know any better, while the more critically minded among the pack will be left wondering–or hoping– that the authorities will, for a moment, forget about the First Amendment and start arresting rappers who assault the public with recycled rhymes about moving more keys than Frank Lucas.
From here, the album free falls into the abyss of all things cliché. There’s the requisite R&B singer singing about thugging track (“Hustle Fo” feat. Lloyd), the all the ladies want my guap song (“That’s My Money”), and the ghetto love hymnal (the Monica assisted “Thugs Need Love Too”). “Karma”–a tale of the pitfalls of betrayal–offers a glimmer of hope, but is not nearly enough to save this one from the round file, a computer recycle bin or from being tossed out of car windows across America.
To be fair, Rocko is another label head turned rapper, so some might give him a pass for his selection of beats. However, the rap game doesn’t have an affirmative action program for its artists and each must–or should– get on based on actual skill. The blame for Self Made rests squarely on the shoulders of label heads looking to capitalize on the latest trend and entourage “yes men” afraid to tell the folks signing the checks to leave the rapping to real rappers.