Planet Asia: Jewelry Box Sessions—The Album

One might expect that a Grammy nominated, former Interscope artist might be more of a household name. But to be an underground MC from the West, you just have to accept early on that there’s a good chance you’ll never get over with the national audience. While Southern artists are the most vocal about having to struggle for respect, it’s the West Coast guys who have the hardest time getting the rest of the country to give them their due. The lucky ones might get put on at Aftermath, but most have to carve out their own niche and make it work as best they can. Not one to sit around and wait for the parade to march to his door, Planet Asia attempts to extend his reach with Jewelry Box Sessions: The AlbumThe music itself isn’t as inaccessible as outsiders may imagine. Both “Street Hop” and “Take One for the Team” incorporate gangsta-boogie mainstays of laid back piano loops and that snappy, metallic snare that Dre is so fond of (not that he had anything to do with the track). A dash of EPMD is even mixed in for “Game Goofy,” which again, has more of a g-funk feel than one might expect. What this all means is largely a matter of perspective; older fans may be disappointed but new listeners who don’t know the difference might look to him for the “hood-lite” position that Xzibit would often fill.No track on the album exemplifies Planet Asia’s problem with walking the line more than the Bun B assisted “Fly Boy” with its synthesized horns and 808s. This blatant attempt at appeasing the southern market is just too much of a compromise and worse yet, the song is too watered down to get the attentions of the audience he seems so desperate to capture. “G.O.D. In The Flesh” immediately follows as an attempt to sate his old fans, but the trauma may be too deep at that point for a full recovery.For this album, Planet Asia takes on the persona of “Medallions” to supposedly try to pay tribute to the old-school. After listening to this over-calculated, decidedly modern album though, the new personality looks more like a sly attempt to get his Interscope job back without alienating his base. Jewelry Box Sessions is trying hard to please everybody, but ultimately, misses his targets. (Gold Chain Music/RBC).