Artist: Purple CityTitle: Road to RichesRating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Matt Barone
Any street-corner vendor will tell you; the appeal of a mixtape rarely stretches beyond a week or so. While some do offer lasting excitement, the majority of DJ-orchestrated compilations hold attention just long enough for a Part 2 to inspire a $5 bill release. Road To Riches (Babygrande), the chain store introduction for Harlem mixtape staples Purple City (made up of Sheist Bub, Un Kasa, and Agallah), can be described in similar fashion. A Babygrande-distributed Best Of disc assembling choice cuts from the Byrd Gangs popular mixtapes, Road To Riches provides little to warrant repeated spins. With skills worthy of Diplomatic B-team status, these Dip Set comrades should at least be commended for their taste in production. If not for the epic-sounding soundtrack, this collection would wallow in mediocrity.
On the lyrical tip, Purple City breaks little ground. Extensive clips are dropped and numerous enemies are viciously taunted throughout. If executed with proper wit, audio homicides and smack-talking sessions can be entertaining; unfortunately, when Un Kasa declares that he’s just like Michael, but not Jackson, its more like Myers on Come 2 Get Ya, its about as witty as his team’s punchlines get. While not utterly disposable lyricists, Purple Citys members have no distinguishing qualities. Over the course of 19 tracks, its mission impossible figuring out whether it was Sheist Bub, Un Kasa, or Agallah that just merked some nameless faux thug. However, flashes of welcome introspection provide momentary individuality. Purple affiliate DK poignantly puts himself under society’s microscope on A Part Of History,’ and Agallah shows glimpses of a conscience on America Show, where he conveys hood loyalty with, Niggas wanted to work, I put the hood on tour/ I’m one of the chosen few that opened the door, make sure they got red carpets on the floor. Too bad such breaks in gangsta monotony are few and far between.
Thankfully, the consistently boisterous instrumentals pick up much needed slack. Largely provided by Agallah, the beats steadily hit with cinematic force that often upgrades the accompanying vocals. Marauding acoustic guitars darken the mood on the formulaic Dip Set meets Purple City murder gram Gun Go, while Agallah’s spastic synthesizers create an avant-garde ambiance on Me & U, an otherwise standard spitfest. Similarly, abrasive church bells propel the aforementioned Come 2 Get Ya into convincing hardcore territory, and the subtle strings of Will Not Lose make such stale Un Kasa lines as turn your whole face into red confetti sound fresh.
Truth of the matter is, quality backdrops arent miracle workers. Relying too heavily on conventional reality rap methods, Purple Citys music is better suited for the mixtape scene than the record label game. If Road To Riches was an instrumental album, itd be as potent as that narcotic piff the crew mentions frequently, ultimately making it a worthwhile listen. With uninspired lyricism abundant, though, this discs listening high is comparable to garden-variety Mary Jane: quick, to the point, yet devoid of lasting effects.