Artist: I-20Title: Self ExplanatoryRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Martin A. Berrios
With the recent explosion of Southern Hip-Hop, all eyes are currently focused on MC’s hailing below the Mason Dixie line. As a part of the Ludacris lead Disturbing Tha Peace consortium, I-20 hopes to capitalize off this movement. His deep voice, which at times might remind some heads of Scarface, has been heard through various guest appearances, most notably the road rage anthem “Move B####.” On his debut album Self Explanatory, this Atlanta hustler turned rapper is able to capture the energy of Southern Rap, yet sounds out of place when he tries to leave that crunk comfort zone.
“Fightin In The Club”’s rowdy tone and catchy hook instantly grabs the listener’s attention. 20 is joined by the majority of his Disturbing Tha Peace family, as each member describes how they would hold themselves down if something popped off at the club. On “The Realest,” 20 connects with Salaam Remi to deliver one of the better tracks on the album. The underrated beatsmith gives the loop found on Jay-Z’s hood classic “Where I’m From” a more aggressive twist, as 20 spits with a swagger as he is untouchable on the streets. “Tell these ballin’ muthafucker’s I’m blocking their dreams/I’m top 5 dead or alive off a one sixteen/and this is 20 talking to you, n#### never forget/since ya’ll a bunch of p*ssies ya’ll bout to get wet,” he confidently boasts.
The crunk flavor is continued on “Break Bread.” Fellow ATLiens Bonecrusher and Ludacris show love through an energetic hook on the bass driven “Insert producer name” production. Things are mellowed down a bit on the appropriately named “Hennesy and Hydro” produced by DJ Paul and Juicy J of Three 6 Mafia. The combination of a slowed down drum pattern and dark sounding guitar serves as great theme music for the consumption of the street version of beef and broccoli. Another joint worth checking out is “So Decatur.”
20 does try to expand his horizons on the radio friendly “Point Them Out” featuring Juvenile. The track samples RUN-DMC’s forgotten gem “Darryl and Joe,” but ends up as a mediocre attempt at recreating the magic on Juvi’s “Back That Thang Up.”
In addition, he also stumbles with his effort on touching on different subject matter with “Kisha.” The song deals with a young girl named Kisha loosing herself within the struggle, except it comes across like the one cliché sentimental song that rappers always place at the end of the albums to show their more introspective side, eventually sounding out of place amongst all the tough talk. Other missteps include the sexually graphic tune “Slow F######.” Shawnna and 20 trade verses on how they like it in the bed, but lack that much needed finesse to execute the song properly.
With this debut album, I-20 unfortunately pigeonholes himself. He is able to shine through on what should come natural to him, but can’t take his craft further than what is needed to really do the damn thing.