SMACK: The Album Vol. 1

Artist: Various ArtistsTitle: SMACK: The Album Vol. 1Rating: 2 1/2 StarsReviewed by: John Burnett

The S.M.A.C.K (Streets, Music, Arts, Culture & Knowledge) series is renowned for providing viewers with street journalism in its grittiest form. S.M.A.C.K. The Album Volume 1 CD/DVD continues the trend of past S.M.A.C.K. DVDs with a compilation of their signature street videos, on site interviews usually catching artists on their home blocks, and a live freestyle battle between underground wordsmiths.

S.M.A.C.K. DVDs at one point were quite refreshing because they were providing an alternative point of view; one directly from the block. Fans of the S.M.A.C.K. series appreciated being given a first-hand look into their favorite rapper’s activity without actually having to venture to the perils of the hood, but this time around S.M.A.C.K. The Album and its DVD only proves to be very repetitious, only showing how stagnant the rap game has become pertaining to creativity.

The gun toting videos begin with ATL’s Young Jeezy who collabs with Slick Pulla (who doesn’t appear because he's on house arrest) and 2 Eleven, two artists on his CTE label. The video displays the rappers fully ornamented in diamonds with guns, surrounded by their entourage of felons, boasting their street credibility. The "street video" is an innovative idea but if you've seen one, you've seen them all, which is backed by all other videos that follow the first. It's either guns, gang signs, blunts or...well, that pretty much sums it up.

The interviews are even less entertaining. The questions seem improv and lacking in thought and usually contain a brand of street journalism that degrades the intelligence of the artists and their environments overly using slang and expletives. The interviews usually touch topics that have been covered numerous times already making them not worth the viewing, but if you need an update on Chamillionaire, Paul Wall, B.G. or Juvenile then check them out.

The only thing worthwhile on the DVD is the feature battle between Serius Jones and Murda Mook. Even without knowing either MC this is something that any fan of rap can get into. Both rappers use developed wordplay, extended metaphors and take it back to the essence of Hip-Hop—the battle. The lyrical joust has Serius Jones stating, "You couldn't even get a slave deal—a whip and a chain" and "You know why y'all in bad shape, because you got squares in your circle." The battle has adversary Murda Mook spitting "Me and my boys pack heat longer than Shaq's feet" and "She engaged in sucking my d*ck, so I had to let her marry my balls."

The S.M.A.C.K. album proves to be highly disappointing. The videos repeatedly show rappers with their crews who are incessantly smoking, signing, flagging, cripping, blooding and flashing firearms. Although gangs, drug use and violence are apart of reality, that does not mean that they are 100% of reality in impoverished neighborhoods. The battle is entertaining but it's buried under 60 minutes of torture.