Rating: 7.5 / 10
David Banner is going through a rap coming of age. Early in his career, he gained success through knocking beats and reckless lyrics, like most young Hip-Hop artists. Now, however, a more mature Banner is aiming at a more constructive message with his latest mixtape, Sex, Drugs, and Video Games. Does the title throw you off a bit? It’s all a part of the smoke and mirrors act Banner employs.
To begin the tape, it’s less smoke and more mirrors for David Banner; staring himself in the face, self-examining through his most personal issues. “Sex, Drugs, and Video Games” sees Banner speaking on a failed relationship over the introspective production provided by M-Phazes (“I’d be lyin’ if I said there wasn’t no pussy on the side/ I’m alone in L.A., I was just tryna get by”).
This transitions to the starry “Believe”, featuring fellow Mississippi native Big K.R.I.T. The connection David Banner has with the listener throughout the tape is established in these first two songs, and proves to be its best quality; in Midnight Marauders fashion, an automated voice asks David Banner, and thus the listener, thought provoking questions through skits that represent a voice of reason. The mixtape has a conscience.
While those examples are more direct, the most interesting aspect here are the songs filled with smoke to cover up the overarching message they contain. “Swag (Remix)” has a booming bass-line and cliché chorus, but Banner speaks on real topics, “Everybody in my city pushing keys, and that’s all these kids see/ If that’s the only thing they hear, then that’s the only thing they’ll be”. “Who’s That” is a bit more direct than the previous, but behind Goodie Mob samples and intriguing production, he tackles self-identity issues. “Malcolm X (A Song To Me)” boasts a ignorant loud instrumental, but in an angry tone, David Banner reminds artists, and mostly himself, to not teach our youth the wrong messages.
The project consists of juxtapositions, standing hand in hand. Both “Yao Ming” and it’s remix are among the album best, but they almost act as bait for the younger crowd. With features from Lil’ Wayne, 2 Chainz, Chris Brown, and A$AP Rocky, most will give these songs, and the tape, a listen. But this just adds to the smoke concealing the bigger message.
So many times, Hip-Hop’s youth ignore conscious music because they think it’s boring. With songs like the aforementioned “Amazing”, and the handful draped in mainstream sound, the unsuspecting listeners are almost force-fed the positivity; maybe without even realizing it. This is something to be commended. Sex, Drugs, and Video Games has some dope songs, regardless of its dope message. With the 20-song tracklisting, there’s sure to be some filler, but they’re outshined by the bright spots here. If you understand all this and don’t feel some of those glossier records, don’t worry too much. They’re not meant for you.