From Freeway & Jake One to Celph-Titled & Buckwild to Skyzoo & !llmind, 2010 has been the year of the Rap duo. In each of these instances, the two artists jettisoned a track listing of varying names for a more intimate and focused project. Right in the thick of this is Buff1 & DJ Rhettmatic, who have spent the last two years crafting Crown Royale. However, while the collaboration sounds good on paper, does their effort reign supreme?

With over two decades of production and deejay experience under his belt working with The Visionaries as well as the Beat Junkies, Rhettmatic’s repertoire of keenly-crafted yet manageable beats provide Buff1 a generous spring board for his rhymes. Outlined by piercing keys and moderate drums on “The Path I Chose,” a frustrated Buff1 denounces the ‘crabs in a bucket’ mentality that hinders today’s Rap scene. Giving insight to the problem, he rhymes, “These rappers wanna get love but they don’t wanna give it though / They on some ‘I’m above showing love’ like a mistletoe / The hate is in their blood like a drug to their system flow / See, they be getting high just ‘cause someone else is miserable.” On “World Go Crazy,” another topic of significance plagues Buff1’s mind; the almighty dollar. With ‘cha-ching’ bells liberally ringing throughout the track, Buff1 challenges his listeners to “try to stay modest while also making your pockets smile.”

Despite his usually engaging flow, Buff1’s voice lacks charisma when it’s necessary. With a heavy backdrop of fierce drums and erratic chants for extra flavor, “We Gotcha” carries the same kind of energy that would get the crowd buzzing at a show. However, Buff1 comes off as monotone by comparison. “Get It Up” languishes in similar territory as his demands to “clap them hands for me and my man” feel uninspired. His performance on “The Chosen Show” fares much better, likely because of the competition (i.e. nine other rappers) that accompanies him on the record. Overall, Buff1’s verse makes its way to the middle of the pack while Rap luminaries Fashawn, Chino XL and Bishop Lamont steal the show.

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The rest of Crown Royale epitomizes the less-than-impressive consequences that can occur when each artist is unable to compromise for the other. Whether shedding light on the woes of his hometown (“GM”), pondering the meaning of life (“Looking For Answers”) or acknowledging the support of his fans (“Thank You”), Buff1 and DJ Rhettmatic can’t seem to find perfect harmony. Sure, a glimmer of hope will surface (“Right Here”), but it’s too little too late for the duo.

Crown Royale is a digestible mix of ’90s boom-bap nostalgia and Motown sensibilities that is likely to get lost in a myriad shuffle of year-end releases. Over the years Buff1 & DJ Rhettmatic have become staple figures in their respective regions, and there’s little question that their individual successes will continue. With that said, their latest project should be considered an afterthought on their radar.

Purchase Crown Royale by DJ Rhettmatic & Buff1