The Drought

Artist: Big ToneTitle: The DroughtRating: 2 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Paine

Remember after Snoop, when it seemed like everybody in Long Beach got a record deal? While Warren G and Jayo Felony thrived, others like Twinz and Lil’ ½ Dead fizzled out. The same may happen in Detroit by way of Slum Village. As Phat Kat, B.R. Gunna, and Lawless Element ride in off SV’s sound and name, will former Jay Dee collaborator, Big Tone follow suit? The Drought (ABB) is a self-produced effort from Detroit’s next native son, out to show he’s more than another villager.

“Watch Me” breaks all the walls that Detroit Hip-Hop has built. With a slow-rolling bass beat, and an equally sauntering flow, Big Tone contends with any radio single. “Peace” also uses that same fresh sound, but in the realm of discussing crime-prevention, not bragging. Other moments like “Real Life” and “Turn My World” echo in that kind of compassion, but aren’t wrapped in nearly as strong of beats. The Drought features plenty of unknown guests [with the exception of Dwele] who cheapen most efforts, and make others feel largely R&B. The worst of these is “Rap Stars” a ridiculous account of a celebrity lifestyle held back by the soft-spoken Beej. Any hook involving ‘ostridge boots’ feels awkward, especially on an independent debut.

Tone is more memorable as a producer than as an MC. At times however, he seems to be emulating Jay Dee’s foundation. “Get Up” relies on a simple, but thick bassline, that uses background adlibs and stuttered deliveries that sound all-too familiar. Tone’s stronger work comes in the more energetic, ever-changing moments like “Peace.” This song is feel-good music with a pounding beat mixed with wonderful crooning. Like the lyrics though, the music heads in too many directions, failing to leave an overall impression of Tone’s capabilities.

ABB Records inadvertently opened up Durham to the Hip-Hop world with Little Brother. They’ve shown another side of Inglewood through Defari. Still, The Drought fails to go anywhere that Big Tone’s peers have in terms of exposing Detroit. This is an album comprised of several moments that climb the walls looking beyond the dirty district, but many more that weigh it down from getting over.