Artist: MC EihtTitle: Veterans DayRating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Jozen Cummings
Dear Mainstream Media:
I write this letter to you with deep concern. For close to 10 years, you have waited for the resurrection of West Coast Hip-hop. Ever since Pac died, you claim the West just isn’t the same. Snoop can make a great record without Dr. Dre. Dr. Dre doesn’t even make records anymore, and when he does put his name on a track, his efforts no longer make you think about sunsets on Crenshaw. And so with that, West Coast rap, if not dead, smells funny.
But if you listened to MC Eiht’s 10th album, Veterans Day (Native), maybe you would realize that the West Coast can do fine with lesser stars. All of the things that make West Coast rap beautiful can be found on the album’s 18 tracks: well-crafted melodies, trunk-rattling bass, colossal kicks, (all courtesy of Compton’s Most Wanted cohort Chill) and most importantly, true gangster lyricism.
Veterans Day isn’t formatted like other mainstream rap records. There is no clear-cut club single, no thug love; just tales of life on the streets of Compton from a voice that possesses a distinct California drawl. The Game and Guerilla Black can yell Compton for all to hear, but we all know they sound like they’re from New York, and that is why you, the mainstream media, embrace them.
But Mr. Gyeah man wants it to be known that he is, day and night, a true homegrown product of the Compton streets. So, if you don’t give him his respect, then he will address you. For example: When G-Unit member Lloyd Banks said, “You don’t have go all the way to L.A. to get your MC Eiht.” on his single “So Fly,” many people never thought Eiht would address the snipe. And to be honest, a lesser man would, but not Eiht. On “U Know Why,” Eiht says, “You ain’t gotta go to the East to get your G-Unit/West Coast, gang unit/will shoot right through it.” But unlike fellow West Coast rapper Jayo Felony, who attempted to resurrect his career by going after Jay-Z back in 2001, Eiht isn’t using the dis to cause controversy or sell records. He addresses Banks, because he isn’t about to let the star power of a younger rapper foil the credibility he has worked so hard to get.
Make sure to also pay attention to Eiht’s beat selection. The beauty of West Coast rap is heard on songs like “Living Like G’Staz.” The track starts with a single-note piano loop, then a pulsing bass line buttresses against the loop, only to be juxtaposed by an Egyptian flute that stays in the lower register. With a healthy kick drum sprinkled on top of these elements, the beat is the perfect soundtrack to an evening of lowrider cruising.
In closing, I ask that you please listen to Veterans Day and open your ears to the possibility that West Coast Hip-hop is bigger than a dog, a doctor, and guerilla’s. In MC Eiht’s world, there are no games, only G’s, and when people realize this, the West will be won.