Late last week, Victoria Beckham's shelved 2003 "hip-hop" solo album, recorded during her post–Spice Girls Roc-A-Fella Records era, made its way to the Internet at long last, and we took a listen. MTV News critics Hazel Cills, Ira Madison III, Charles Aaron, and Jessica Hopper try to get to the bottom of this mysterious artifact, this token of Posh Spice's time as a rap aficionado.
Madison III: Before we even get the album itself, can we marvel at this cover art? It's probably not even official; there's been a lot of fan-created art over the years since the album was shelved, but... lest you doubt this was a Dame Dash production, Victoria Beckham is wearing a velour Rocawear track jacket and pum pum shorts while bent over a... cinderblock? The hood wasn't ready and I'm not sure it's managed to get ready in the 13 years since this was recorded. "DAT Simple" is also exactly the intro track I'd expect for Come Together. It's one of those songs that would never be a single, but you'd always remember it as if it were one because it opens your favorite mid-2000s pop albums ("Turn it Up" on Mya's Case of the Ex; the title track on Janet's Damita Jo). But also, the song is called "DAT Simple," and it was probably hearing Victoria Beckham repeat that phrase in the chorus that got this shelved in the first place. She doesn't exactly sound down, despite her trap queen attire.
Cills: I'm getting total, cut-and-paste, reeeeal early Photoshop collage vibes from this poor album cover, and I'm getting the same vibes from the music. Everything about Come Together sounds like it was made entirely using Pro Tools presets. Those rushed string keyboards on "Baby Boy" ("Hard Version," gotta clarify) absolutely kill me. The same goes for that squelchy acid bass in the background on her bizarre "Freedom" ... uh, homage? Everything about this just screams mid-2000s in the worst way. Can someone please confirm for me that she actually sings "I love the way them blue jeans fuuuh-lair" to her man on "Me and You This Time"? I will say that if there is one song I am genuinely feeling, it would be "Let Your Head Go." It's like a dime-store Ray of Light cut. Apparently this song was officially released and charted well in the UK, yet it doesn't sound like anything else on the record. I wonder if that's because a lot of these songs never got mixed properly? Or, god, maybe this is just what 2003 sounded like and I've forgotten.
Hopper: By way of fact-checking, I just tried to replicate this faux sexy-yoga pose she is doing using my office desk chair and it’s really, deeply uncomfortable and creates great neck strain, but alas, it is possible. I am getting worse cut-and-paste vibes from her vocals than I am from this olive-on-toothpick thing she is doing here. It’s clear that the “hard” demo of “Baby Boy” and its holistic absence of what we might call “good singing” begat the “soft” follow-up revision by... someone else who sounds like a slightly Madonna-fied version of Posh’s flat, thin voice. “DAT Simple” is such a glorious buffet of shitshow — multiple samples of people yelling through the entire song, the dampened “live” metal drum sound and fills, Posh trying to keep up while M.O.P. deploy the last recorded use of the word “gully.” I like to imagine this song as a stub universe, where Billy Danze left M.O.P. and has been half a duo with Vicki Beckham for the last decade.
Aaron: First off, anybody remember when Posh got her own Roc-A-Fella chain and wore it around her waist just below her navel? That and Dame’s proclamation that if “we can make Victoria hot, we can make anybody hot” tell you all you need to know about this. Posh’s career was in freefall, she had a voyeuristic obsession with New York hip-hop culture and was going on about being more “urban” (Brooklyn, hello?), and Dame had started like 10 different companies and was trying to prove that he was the “Jay-Z of business” (since he and Jay were splitting apart at the time and Dame was stunting like he was a star). Posh and Naomi Campbell became the faces of Rocawear when it was trying to open a London store and expand into Europe and “take over the world.” (The funniest story I remember from that effort was that Dame refused the frantic protestations of his partners to make Rocawear pants less baggy for the European market because it made Euro men look ridiculous; he had scruples!) Both sides were in this for all the wrong reasons. It could not have been less about music (and it sounds like it), though maybe Dame had momentary yayo dreams of him and Posh becoming the bizarro Diddy and “Jenny from the Block.” And Ira, this cover art is hilarious but I don’t even know if it’s as kooky as the cover of her solo debut where she posed with the black panther and icey logo. Posh was on more than one.
Madison III: I love that first album cover. Vicki's career is so curious to me, because she had a moderately successful first album, this one was shelved, but then she did release the amazing song "My Love Is For Real" before her dreams of being a pop star went up in flames. So many songs have leaked from her pop attempts — "Resentment" for example, was eventually snatched up by Beyoncé for her album B'Day, and it's a much better song because it sounds authentic from her. This was never Iggy Azalea level, but as awkward as Vicki looked in her hip-hop threads, she sounds even more lost trying to catch a beat. My personal favorite is "That Dude," because despite the faux–Swizz Beatz production, it's got a bit of a Nancy Sinatra vibe, and if it were a pure pop song instead of trying to be a Jennifer Lopez B-side, it could be a pretty good song. Are there any songs that we actually like on this thing or is it all a wash?
Hopper: I “like” the part on “Freedom” where she raps, and then does a deflating soulful run that sounds like a she hopes that when she gets to the end of it she will disappear. And lucky for her, this album did.