In listening to this disc and trying to figure out how to start this review off right, I got to thinking about ATL rappers and the need to distinguish yourself from the rest of the Rap scene in this climate. "Ringtone Rap" is one thing, but it seems as if every new rappers to come up with some "new sound" (e.g. Crunk, Snap Music, et. al.) to set themselves apart, to varying success. The thing about it is, for the most part, what Lil' Jon and the 'snappers' did was fresh, something that not too many heads outside of that area new of. The Shop Boyz, who's debut LP, Rockstar Mentality, drops on the 19th of June, has something called "hood rock", which is what they call the sound you hear on "Party Like A Rockstar": Rap with guitars. Well, it's more like Crunk Rock - oh wait, didn't Lil Jon already establish this? As did Mos Def? In any case, this "hood rock" sound is more poseur and put-on than legit creativity, anyways, and Rockstar Mentality is a lump of coal that is desperately being squeezed to become a diamond - only to be crushed by too much pressure.
Take their initial hit, "Party Like A Rockstar" (who woulda thunk it - a video that is better than the song its promoting!): the fact that you are driving a fast car, wearing "skulls" and chains and bopping over a repetitive guitar does NOT make you party like anything other than a moron. Most rockstars just give off the aura of glamor, the essense of mystique, and the feeling that you are with someone big. SB comes off sounding like a bunch of followers who happened upon a record deal. And why would a Black man be on a boat getting a tan with Marilyn Manson? The other thing that comes across initially in this track, and is more evident than ever, is that while there are 3 guys in the crew, I couldn't tell which one is which. I know their names b/c it is spelled out in the liner notes (big up THINKTANK for the promo btw), but they all share the same "voice", nothing real distinctive between the 3 of them, which is a crying shame. They follow this up with a "rep your hood" by numbers track, "Bowen Homes". This is apparently where they grew up in the dirty, but you could substitute the street and project names and rep your own hood! Their favorite track, "Rollin'", sounds like they were trying to be in the Chevrolet campaign that popped up around the Super Bowl, with their un-subtle Chevy drop and the ridiculous Kentuck fried country backdrop, it just comes off as forced and foul.
In terms of "hood rock", its a mixed bag: you either get heavier rock sounds like "Party Like A Rockstar", or the driving sound on "Flexin'"; you then get ska-esque skanks like the "Baby Girl" or the lone guitar riff in "Totally Dude". The thing that kills me about this is, we have seen Rock and Rap link up countless times. "Showin' Me Love" is probably the most decent mix of the rock and rap - it has the dope rock guitar on the chorus, but still maintains a nice thump and bounce that truly makes it "hood". Just don't expect them to handle these beats with anything you haven't heard before. Not only do the 3 of them sound like any 3 rappers from the South, but they can't even write a dope chorus, EVEN OVER A BEAT BY DAVID BANNER! I guess when you are trying to capitalize and drive in Lil' Jon's lane, you are given a certain leeway when it comes to, oh I don't know, making sense. In one song they are trying to make this female their "baby girl", but in another they are down for the chicks who go down when the see the ice "like the Titanic". They speak on it not being all good in the hood, but try to then sound country as fuck (not ignant sounding, like Willie Nelson steeze). Essentially, they want to make their own lane - and use your lane to get there.
At the end of the day, coasters like this make it hard to take Rap seriously these days. Monotonous hooks, mundane lyrics, snoozecore on the beats... and the record labels are trying to figure out why people won't buy music? It's BECAUSE OF THE MUSIC THAT'S OUT THERE! Stop producing CDs by heads who want to do $1Million in ringtone sales, and end up producing a CD that doesn't even break the 48 minute mark. How the FUCK is your CD not even an hour long? You could have just put out an EP and picked the 6 best tracks - but in this 13-song litter, there's nothing that ain't shitty. TOTALLY DUUUUUUUUUUDE!
rock the dub gives this disc a 2 out of 10. A lack of quality raps + a boatload of boring beats = a new coaster for my Super Big Gulp.
For more info on the Shop Boyz, check out these sites:
Shop Boyz Online
Shop Boyz on MySpace
Rockstar Mentality drops on June 19th. Check out Amazon.com for more info on this disc.