Since their 1991 debut, Dirty South rappers Eightball & MJG have been
proclaiming their bouncy, thick, funk sound as "space age" with
synths often programmed to sound retro-futuristic and beats that Master
P and his minions used to full effect a few years later.
It is interesting, then, that as we approach the millennium
what we used to consider the "space age" until we collectively
realized Y2K would be better known for computer crashes than
hovercrafts Eightball & MJG would release In Our Lifetime
Vol. 1, an album that dittos the duo's previous accomplishments
laying loops inspired by '70s funky soul and sci-fi soundtracks over
buoyant, electrified Dirty South beats.
In Our Lifetime Vol. 1 isn't as envelope pushing as some of
their previous releases, especially Eightball's 1998 solo project,
Lost, but it is chock full o' songs that are likely to be eaten
up by their solid fanbase and those currently engrossing themselves
in all hip-hop bubbling up from the South.
A soulful intro track sets the album's tone by telling the listener to
enjoy "the stickiest of the greenest" and a cognac while listening,
but the sound then shifts to the electrified drum machine bounce of
"We Started This Shit" and the music doesn't let up until "Speed"
wraps up 14 tracks and 61 minutes later.
For those who like their hip-hop rowdy, with a Dirty South flavor,
"We Started This," (RealAudio excerpt)
"Get It Crunk" and "Throw Your Hands Up" (RealAudio excerpt)
(which features a nice turn by Outkast) will get your club-hopping
booty shakin', even if the choruses are a bit by-the-numbers.
Slow, smokin' grooves, however, dominate the album. "Paid Dues" (RealAudio excerpt)
incorporates reggae dub effects, "Don't Flex" uses seductive rhythms
to accent sexist girl-watching lyrics and "Love Hurts" (thankfully)
doesn't sample the Nazareth classic but still gets the point across
with a groove that sounds like a lost Marvin Gaye lover's lament.
The production work of Suave House's T-Mix and Organized Noise's Mr.
DJ is tight throughout, continuing the recent trend of hip-hop that
works both as a dance work-out and as ear candy for those who want
good headphone music.
The LP is alternately insightful and tired lyrically, the group
seems in a rut, letting slip a few too many rhymes that rely on the
played-out words "bitch," "nigga" and "motherfucker." There's little
on In Our Lifetime Vol. 1 that approaches the lyrical
profundity and fine storytelling found on Eightball's "My Homeboy's
Girlfriend," "The Artist Pays the Price," "Backyard Mississippi" or
"My First Love." Lost was a poetic breakthrough when it came to
Southern rap; it's a shame the trend couldn't continue here.
If indeed Eightball & MJG are operating in the space age
Eightball alluded to the year 3000 on Lost it seems
that the best of today's Southern rap will be the dominant sound when
our offspring's grandchildren's children are cruisin' the strip on
Mars and clubbing on the Moon. If George Clinton was right about his
whacked-out sci-fi funk coming from the future, there's no reason to
believe that Eightball & MJG aren't looking at the same crystal ball.