Hell Rell: Black Mask, Black Gloves

Every Rap crew needs a musical enforcer. The Hip-Hop enforcer role doesn't require the person to enact real violence on enemies, but musically he must possess the lyrical acumen and aggressive persona to ward off rivals and challengers. For the splintered Dipset family, Bronx native Hell Rell has fit that description perfectly.

Since fans first heard his hungry, jail phone freestyle on Diplomatic Immunity, Rell has fearlessly defended Dipset against lyrical challenges from Tru Life to Red Café. Now after years of faithfully playing a supporting role in the Harlem crew’s hierarchy, Hell Rell seeks to further establish his own identity on his sophomore LP Black Mask, Black Gloves (Babygrande).

The album starts off strong with “Intro (Black Gloves)” and “Get Ready.” The former showcases Rell’s gangster bravado over melodic keyboard riffs. Despite the familiar subject matter, the track’s short length serves to give the listener a startling jolt in preparation for the remaining eleven songs.

With the latter, the beat’s booming sample of The Temptation’s track of the same name recalls Dipset’s signature sound from the mid 2000s. Here Rell is in his element, and both tracks stand out due to his ability to maintain a cocksure persona without having the ego-driven rhymes become overbearing.

That trend continues on “Realest Nigga Doin’ It.” Another highlight courtesy of Rell’s chemistry with producer A.RAAB MUZIK, the Dipset soldier supplies the content you’d expect from the title; “I could snipe you from behind / Old timers pull me aside and say ‘boy I like you ‘cause you grind!” But the pulsing guitar riffs and looping, distorted vocal sample adds complimentary variation to Rell’s standard gangsta rhymes to keep the listener engaged.

However, what brings the album quality down is not just the limited subject matter in itself, but how Rell presents it. Songs like the uninspired typical ladies joint (“Come Baby Girl”), the one that was meant for the club (“Push Em Back”), and money anthem (“I Luv Stuntin’”) smother Rell’s individual talent by confining the LP to one predictable, trudging gear. As a result, the LP becomes a plodding, glorified mixtape over the second half as opposed to a creative and meticulously planned album.

Luckily for Hell Rell, his problems on this album are not due to a lack of talent as the Bronx MC definitely knows how to rhyme. But in order to move beyond the shadows of the “elite” members of his Dipset crew, Hell Rell will have to pay more attention to crafting an album that not only reflects all his talents, but is versatile enough to truly illuminate the legitimate street reputation and struggles behind his hardcore rhymes.

Hell Rell

"Push Em Back"

Hell Rell

"Realest Ni*** Doin It"