That's 'Des Moines,' Not 'Detroit'

Yawn-inspiring lyrics over barely passable beats from big names rapping like fictional Iowa 'Whiteboys.'

Gangsta-rap collections are sometimes thick with clichés, but

that may be the point.

There are two ways of looking at the soundtrack to "Whiteboys," a film

that follows the humorous adventures of a fictional crew of white

gangsta-rap fans from Iowa who try to make a splash as rappers in

Chicago. You can listen and smile as the gangsta-rap clichés

roll past your ears and hope the artists were instructed to make songs

that would appeal to the film's characters.

Or, you can listen to the album and cry about the unoriginal, copycat

state of the gangsta-rap union. The problem is, the lyrics aren't

startlingly original but most of the songs aren't outrageous enough to

be outright parodies, either.

Either way you look at it, the collection is thick and deep with

comic-book exaggerations — rhymes about violence, partying, drug

dealing and life in the inner city. Hardcore gangsta-rap lyrics have

evolved a bit over the years, so writing rhymes in 1999 about dealing

crack or shooting gats without expressing apologies or showing

consequences sounds out-of-date, or worse, irrelevant. Such is the

problem that plagues this soundtrack, though the engaging production

saves the first half of the album.

Big Punisher and new female R&B vocalists 6430 start things off in a

promising fashion with "Who Is a Thug" (RealAudio excerpt), a pop-gangsta jam that shares

the same structure as Pun's "Still Not a Player": quick-lipped rhymes

over Latin-flavored loops, bridged by catchy R&B choruses. If it's

released as a single, it has the grooves and bounce it'll take to

crossover and earn the success garnered by "Still Not a Player."

DJ Hurricane and members of the Flipmode Squad's "Come Get It" (RealAudio excerpt)

follows, with the Flipmode Squad dropping antagonizing lyrics over the

Hurra's best imitation of a Jay-Z backing track. Rapper/producer

Soopafly then teams with Kurupt, Tray Deee and Daz Dillinger for

"Hell Ya," a layered, fast-paced tune with a thumping bass that has

dance floor written all over it.

After the first three tracks, though, the album begins a slow slide

into mediocrity. Snoop Dogg teams with film star T-Bo (Danny Hooch)

for "Whiteboys" (RealAudio excerpt) — a G-Funk via No Limit song whose lyrical

content — seemingly written in a parallel universe where

Beastie Boys, 3rd Bass and House of Pain never got their mad props

— seems out of date by about a decade. For what it's worth,

T-Bo may be the first white Southern rapper — which is actually a

refreshing change of pace from white rappers like Kid Rock and Fred

Durst who learned everything they need to know about rhyming from

Beastie Boys, Cypress Hill and House of Pain.

Raekwon's "Respect Power" and Canibus' "Watch Who You Beef Wid"

continue the slide — each song contains a few lyrical zingers,

and both are designed to make heads bob. But both men are capable of

much better work.

Once Tommy Finger kicks in with "Paper Chasers (Up North)," the album

kicks into full suck mode. And we're talking known rappers here —

Three 6 Mafia, Do or Die, the WhoRidas and Trick Daddy. With the

exception of Slick Rick and Common's "Don't Come My Way," tracks 7–17

are packed with recycled rhymes about ballers, players and gangstas

over beats that are barely passable, given the talent involved. There

have been been so many lyrical innovations the past few years in

gangsta rap, — think Wu-Tang's sci-fi kung-fu or Tupac as

gangsta-with-a-conscience — yet the artists on this album seem to

have missed the revolution.

Which, as I stated at the start of this review, may be the point of

the soundtrack. Perhaps the album is supposed to reflect the

unoriginal rap of the characters in "Whiteboys." If that was the

goal, more power to the producers — they hit their mark.