Eightball Behind Smash Lost Album

Label sampler-CD added to rapper's two-CD set without his approval.

Rapper/producer Permo "Eightball" Smith is a little conflicted.

On one hand, he's proud of Lost, his double-CD solo debut boasting

guest appearances by such hip-hop heavyweights as Busta Rhymes, Redman,

Master P and Goodie Mob. The album, released on the Suave House label,

entered the Billboard 200 albums chart last week at #5.

On the other hand, Eightball seems a bit miffed that his double-CD set was

turned into a triple-CD set by packaging it with a Suave House label sampler.

"That was just a marketing idea that Suave House and Universal came up with

to get some of the new [Suave House] artists out there," Eightball said last week

from his hotel room in New York. "I was cool about it, but they didn't let me

choose or approve the songs. Some of them I didn't like, and this is my double-

CD, ya' know?"

Declining to name which tracks on the label sampler he didn't like, Eightball

seemed ready to put it behind him. "In the end, that's my name on the first two

CDs and Suave House's on the third CD," he said. "I think people will recognize

what's up."

On the retail level, no stores contacted relayed any confusion over whether or

not Lost was a double or triple Eightball album. "Aside from boxed sets,

this is perhaps the lengthiest hip-hop set we've ever seen," said Robin Moralez,

music buyer for the Virgin Megastore in San Francisco. "However, I haven't

heard of any of our customers complaining that the third CD is a label sampler."

Stores in New York, Atlanta and Eightball's hometown of Memphis, Tenn., all

reported that since the third CD is clearly labeled on Lost's packaging as

a "Bonus CD," none of their customers had balked at picking up the disc.

Not that Eightball lacked the material for a third CD of his own. "I was working

on [Lost] off and on for about a year," Eightball said. "I didn't set out to

make it a double-CD, but over a year's time, there was just so much stuff and a

lot of it still didn't make it onto the album."

So why not go for broke and break the two-CD barrier erected by such artists as

Master P (Da Last Don), Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (The Art of War)

and the Notorious B.I.G. (Life After Death)? "I have that song 'The Artist

Pays the Price,' " Eightball said, laughing, "but if I did that, I'd have to title it 'The

Consumer Pays the Price.' "

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Eightball/The_Artist_Pays_The_Price.ram"

>"The Artist Pays the Price" (RealAudio excerpt) is one of the more

political-minded tracks on Lost, with Eightball encouraging the listener to

"be an artist/ not a slave for the industry" and aiming lyrical barbs toward

gangsta-rappers who lack skills, commercial rappers who sacrifice their vision

for big sales and record-industry executives who make easy money off a

rapper's hard work. "It's not aimed at any certain person," Eightball said of the

song. "It's just the truth from my point of view. It's a gamble these days if you've

got a good thing and try to make it in this industry."

Lost, in fact, is filled with gambles. Its songs vary from the gospel-flavored

history lesson of "Backyard Mississippi" to the West Coast gangsta-rap of

"360°" to a gentle ode to writing lyrics entitled

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Eightball/My_First_Love.ram">"My First

Love" (RealAudio excerpt). It also breaks one of rap's unwritten rules: It

features appearances by performers from all over the hip-hop map, including

gangsta-rapper Master P, clown prince Busta Rhymes, East Coast star Redman

and Eightball's regular collaborator/partner-in-rhyme, MJG.

According to Eightball, some of these guest stars were selected by him, while

others were the choice of Suave House Records CEO Tony Draper. "Everybody

I worked with was just about everybody who I wanted to work with at this

particular time," Eightball said. "I really wanted to do a solo joint with me and

Mystikal, for example, but [I went along with Suave House] and added [Master

P, Silkk the Shocker and Psycho Drama on 'Pure Uncut'] and it was all love."

A collaboration with Puff Daddy, Ice Cube and MJG entitled "Lay It Down" was

also recorded, but it was held for Eightball and MJG's next album.

While Eightball may have taken chances by writing different types of songs and

working with guests from different hip-hop sub-genres, perhaps the biggest risk

he took was his attempt to bring a unifying theme to Lost. Many of the

songs on the album reflect the concept that mistakes made in the past resonate

today and what you do today will come back to you in the future.

"I want people to hear this album and understand that we are all lost," Eightball

said. "We all have decisions to make these days, and you just have to have your

head in the right place.

"Right now," he added, "I don't think a lot of people are there."