I've just heard an album that would make a pop culture-hating, critical
theory-spouting egghead named Theodore Adorno not just turn in his
grave, but rise from the dead and go on a murderous rampage. This
mid-century fuddy-duddy saw mass culture, and particularly pop music, as
being nothing more than a series of prefabricated formulas to be put
together in the form of pop music, radio and TV shows by a culture
industry that feeds the "mindless masses" in order to oil the capitalist
What does a dead honky who hated jazz have to do with Silkk the Shocker?
Quite simply, Master P and his proteges (such as his brother Silkk)
represent the logical conclusion of Adorno's theorizing. His
assembly-line approach to music is reflected in the large number of
yearly releases, generic artwork, sequels to songs, crafty
cross-promotion (in the form of numerous guest appearances and
advertisements for other No Limit albums on the CD packaging), and the
name of the in-house production team that churns out No Limit albums:
"Beats By the Pound."
You also might be wondering how I can get this far into a review and
speak so little about the music. The answer is that with No Limit, it's
not the music that matters, which is demonstrated by the fact that
virtually everything printed about No Limit has focused on Master P's
uncanny business sense. The music is, for the most part, about the
business. But what about the remaining part? Well, with Made Man,
there's not much to write home about.
The lead-off single, "It Ain't My Fault (part 2)," features No Limit
rapper Mystikal and the most annoying hook I've heard in a number of
years ("uh-oh!/ It ain't my fault/ DID I DO DAT?"). They even attempt
some Run-D.M.C.-style, bounce-the-verse-back-and-forth, tag-team
rapping, but end up merely spazzing out, throwing caution (and diction)
to the wind.
With a single that's so bad, one would expect an even worse album. But Shocker and company have positioned the bar so low that almost
anything sounds good -- "End of the Road," for instance. The song -- which jacks "Easy," by pop-schlockster Lionel Richie -- is a standard R&B/hip-hop
jam whose sentimental Richie riff and harmonizing by Sons of Funk
actually works when juxtaposed with the sad tales Silkk weaves
throughout the song. It's cheesy, but sometimes cheese works, especially
amidst an album full of thuggish, ruggish, sexist, gangsta-ism.
A brief aside: The use of "Easy" got me thinking, "What's up with this
new trend in hip-hop?" If, five years ago, I had told a bunch of critics
at The Source or Rap Pages that the next big thing in
hip-hop would be for hardcore MCs to take the goofiest songs of the past
few years and lay rhymes over them, I would have gotten a severe
beatdown, or at least a few laughs at my expense. In the past year, DMX
sampled Phil Collins, Tupac lifted from Bruce Hornsby and Jay-Z sampled
"Annie," Glenn Frey and the Waitresses -- the list goes on and on.
"All Because of You," featuring Mia X, is moderately amusing because of
the inclusion of a human beatbox and the hook from the oft-covered
"Sukiyaki" (most recently re-made into a hit in the mid-1990s by 4 PM).
The following song, "No Limit," is just plain weird with its
not-quite-drum-n-bass rhythms and barked, cheerleader-styled raps
("N!-O!-L!-I!-M!-I!-T!/ NO!/ LIMIT!"). It's the most unnatural sounding
song since Josey Wales attempted to marry country and western with
reggae dancehall on "Bush Wacked" back in 1997. And when "No Limit"
abruptly ends and the smooth, opening piano riff from "Easy" rolls from
the speakers, the effect is positively surreal.
The way elements are thrown together on Made Man is almost
avant-garde, in an unintentional way. It reminds me of conceptual art
generated by computer software that randomly tosses together cliched
elements of pop music to make "songs" that almost sound right, but not
quite. It's amusing and irritating at the same time, but mostly