Against Tha Grain

Artist: KuruptTitle: Against Tha GrainRating: 2 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Paine

The last time Kurupt was in dire straits, Tha Streetz Iz a Mutha surfaced as a brilliant, vengeful album packed with melodic Fred Wreck and Dr. Dre production, and Young Gotti's verbal piss and vinegar. Four years later, Kurupt's stranded on Death Row, and his rare interviews have alluded to another chapter of inner-turmoil. This album has been toted and pushed back for three of those years. As Kurupt's future seems brighter through a Dogg Pound reunion, the solo - Against Tha Grain (Death Row) arrives unexpected, unannounced, and clearly under-dressed for Hip-Hop's better MCs in 2005.

"Deep Dishes" reveals a new bottom in Kurupt's lyrics. "You ain't got weapons of mass destruction on you / And I'm gonna make sure you leak like barrels of oil," is not only a awkward rhyme, but one of many analogies to terrorism and the Holocaust for street-success. The attitude is polarized between death-threatening lyrics of pained animosity ("Speak On It" and "Jealousy") to olive-branch offerings of peace, "Tha Past." Perhaps this reveals either Kurupt's own uncertainty of his friends, or a poorly thought-out compilation from four years of masters. Whichever, Kurupt's sincerity on either side is lost, leaving only the weaker party songs to be taken seriously.

Without any of his former associates willing to support this effort, Kurupt's production falters greatly. Sir Jinx, the man who helped Ice Cube so greatly, can't do the same for Kurupt. "Stalkin'" uses a cliche drum sample to build momentum, but the effort fails due to lack of purpose. Mark Sparks does the bulk of the album, without any stand out surprises. The most refreshing backdrop comes on "Calico," with the Dayton Family, produced by The Screwface Music Group. Here, Kurupt isn't given watered down and bastardized G-Funk, but hard drums and well-structured keys. Another collaborative highlight is the promised junction of Kurupt and Domination. "You F**kin' With the Best" does reveal positive chemistry with another, as the Eastwood, Spider Locc, and M.O.P. bonds failed to. Still, Baby C-Style's production isn't as edgy as the collaboration. Like the inconsistent messages in the words, the music on this album feels as though radio play was never a consideration of the project.

Against Tha Grain defies all of the promises of a Kurupt lyrical revival. The first artist-album on Death Row in over five years continues to rely on recycled Tupac material ("My Homeboys"). The mix of anonymous threats and peace offerings fall on deaf ears, as does music contributed by unenthused, uninspired no-names. With a Dogg Pound reunion album already in utero, Kurupt must consider his now higher wall to climb back to mainstream consciousness and present-day respect. The grains got the best of him.