Conceptually, any album that proclaims to be the “revenge” of anything is tasked with proving something to misled listeners. Although born in Texas, William L. Calhoun Jr., known to the rap world as WC, has been releasing testaments to the West Coast rap scene since the late 1980s. Indeed, the Barracuda (or Skip Skip) has done his fair share of proving. Built in a time “before the tight clothes and mascara” rap, the 40-year- old MC dropped his first solo album since 2007’s Guilty by Affiliation earlier this week.
Revenge of The Barracuda, Dub’s 4th solo studio album, showcases him as solo as he’s ever been. Most tellingly, the Lench Mob/ Big Swang/E1 Entertainment independent release is in stark contrast with his last record in term’s of the frequency of Ice Cube features. Cube and WC have remained close even after Mac 10 dipped from the trio’s former Westside Connection collective. With over half of the tracks on his last album having Ice Cube in tow, the former NWA spitter makes only one appearance this time around. The same song, “You Know Me,” expectedly turns out to take top track honors. A mesmerizing hook bangs out an attitude early, over a palm-tree-breezing, switch- slapping, tickle-me-West instrumental. Here, Cube helps remind the world who’s in charge of the OGs of G-Funk, “I’m the president, you just a resident/ in my gangsta world, and you late with the fuckin’ rent.” Meanwhile, Dub’s “on the 110 with Dickies to my knees,” enchanted in South Los Angeles sag-swag. It’s West Coast #winning at it’s finest.
Where Ice Cube’s hands were all over Guilty By Affiliation, there are almost entirely off this project. GBA’s Snoop, The Game and Butch Cassidy, were replaced by Daz Dillinger, Kurupt, Maylay, Bad Lucc, Soopafly and a curious Juvenile feature on the project’s biggest head-scratcher. A largely small-name production team (namely Hallway Productionz and Jah Zilla), does its part to cleanly arrange the Barracuda’s bang-bang backdrops ready to be lyrically Crip-waltzed on. This leaves the success or failure of the album up almost entirely up to WC.
“A branch off the same tree as Pac and Eazy,” he chooses wisely to stick to his guns. “100% Legit” rides a murky sample of Eazy E’s “Still Talkin,’” for what becomes the album’s strongest hook, and arranges a tonal-shifting “dirty as a piss test” delivery. On “Reality Show,” he takes us on a lyrical East-West-South playful flyby of Hip Hop happenings around the country. In a lot of ways, the assertion of this release is that WC is willing to wager that listeners will reward his loyalty to creating vintage West Coast music. “Stayed true, never sold out, kept it tight y’all/ Now I’m hearing bitch motherfuckers wanna write me off/ Nobody feeling him I guess so/ Catch you niggas in the line at my next show,” WC testifies on “Walking In My Taylors.” These mostly- accurate stabs at G-Funk hymns do their part to enact the Barracuda’s mission.
Conversely, “That’s What I’m Talking About” and its’ accompanying chimey-jingle sees the “bandana dangler” attempting social media-related threats, “Facebook gangsters/ I put faces on obituaries.” There’s something outrageously unsettling about associating any gangster rapper with a technology flavor-of-the-month. Yet it’s “Hustla” featuring Juvenile that turns out to be the most unlike Skip Skip. Aside from the boarder auto- tuney Dion-laden hook, the redundant theme and sparkly, spacey beat is flat-out too shiny to fit snug among the company of the album. It also has to be one of the worst hustler-anthems in recent memory. The congested, “D Boy” is the most narrative batch of lyrics, but they only establish a faux-sentimental try at an introspective spell of prison- punished bad luck. Album order seems a bit of an afterthought. The placement of the last four tracks is especially lazy.
These shortcomings beg the question about whether or not WC can deliver a full offering without more assistance. Time will tell if the “Bow Down” and “Terrorist Threats” moments were the most noteworthy notches of Dub’s particular interpretation of West Coast Gangsta Rap. Don’t get it twisted, WC played a major role in the G Funk era, especially during its resurgence at the turn of century, as a member of Westside Connection. The self-proclaimed “Westside Defendant,” lives up to his title, but perhaps in a way that was only just nostalgic enough. Beneath the pile of Khaki, chronic and Chuck Taylor, WC is merely keeping an over-the-hill-gangster-rap flame ablaze. For most listeners, that isn’t proof enough to deem a revenge of any kind successful.