From Me to U

Artist: Juelz SantanaTitle: From Me to URating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Toshi Kondo

When Juelz Santana was featured prominently on Cam’ron’s hit singles “Oh Boy” and “Hey Ma”, many felt that the spot was undeserved. However, after his dominating performance on the Diplomats’ album, even outshining his mentor Cam at times, his right to show and prove with a solo album couldn’t be denied. Although From Me To U gives more glimpses of Juelz’s ability to stand alone, weak hooks and repetitive beats prevent this album from completely erasing initial doubts.

Be forewarned, if you’re unhappy with the copious amount of sped-up vocal samples infiltrating hip-hop, you may not enjoy this album. After leaning on this production style so heavily, hopefully the Heatmakerz can diversify their sound to quell the growing backlash and annoyance from listeners. Also, the album is very long in length clocking in at 20 tracks although four are skits.

Aside from this, on many tracks Juelz shows a maturity and introspective side that belie his 19 years of age. The melancholy “One Day I Smile” finds Juelz sharing his private thoughts on many of hip-hop’s fallen soldiers and continuing to give love to incarcerated scarface Shyne. Encouragingly he spits “And I go visit Shyne, in my distant mind/ I tell him “Stay Up”, cause in there it’s a different grind.”

He gets even more personal through “My Problem (Jealousy)” recounting his tribulations dealing with a special female. Exhibiting vulnerability and taking responsibility for being physically abusive shows a high level of maturity that most don’t have. These tracks illustrate Juelz’s passionate and determined delivery and distinguish him from a lot of other young rhyme spitters.

It wouldn’t be a Dip Set release though without some rambunctious material. The newly crowned “King of the South”, T.I., joins Juelz on the confrontational “Now What.” Somehow Jazze Pha’s chaotic beat works even with a crazy assortment of sounds ranging from police sirens to what sounds like cicada buzzing. The rapid drums brought in intermittently bring an undeniable southern feel and doesn’t sound like anything else on the album.

There is plenty of filler material to go along with the aforementioned highlights. “Monster Music”, which experiments with opera-style vocals in the background is a dismal failure. While updated versions of “Let’s Go” and “My Love (Remix)” from Diplomatic Immunity only add to the abundance of excess padding. On the latter Jimmy Jones does a miserable job of filling in for the animated Freeway who blessed the original.

As unfair as it may be, Cam is Dipset’s Jigga on a much smaller scale. Juelz is Dipset’s Bleek desperately trying to prove that there is more than one franchise player within the clique. While Juelz is a talented and marketable MC, From Me To U will not convince anyone that he could carry on the mantle if Cam decided to concentrate on his various other businesses and put down the mic.

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