Hasty Generalization: Young Dro – High Times (Isn’t As Lyrical As He Thinks It Is)

Young Dro - High Times

That’s the real album cover up there. Examining it, I was surprised to see the platinum claim, so much so that I spent the last half hour trying to verify it. The best I could find is that Shoulder Lean (the 2006 single that serves as Dro’s best and only claim to fame) is 2x platinum. Forgive my deflation, but I expected more. I’m much more moved by album sales than single sales. This attitude is partially an overreaction to the “ringtone rap” period, but it also reflects my belief that the best musical artistry is an album full of great songs.  Lastly, in the past, when any rapper talked about sales it was understood that they meant US (not international), album sales. That used to be the hip-hop subtext for the word sales, and I refuse to stop thinking that way, for reason #2.

So that’s one arguably tall tale on Dro’s cover, but here’s another: “Is Lyrical Rap Back?” Is it? I’d say yes, but not because of Young Dro. Obviously, he disagrees, even calling himself “lyrical rap” in an article on SOHH. I, of course, disagree, because I have impossibly high standards I think Dro sets the bar (no pun intended) for lyricism much too low. Why do I think this? Because 95% of High Times’s verses are bad-to-horrific. Here’s a part of one of the worst offenders:

I don’t want ya bitch ‘less the pussy look new do/
bitch I hate ya so bad I’ma sue you/
man I stay forgetting hoes, who you?/
whatcha call Japanese broads? moo-shus/
tell the bitch hold up, two finna pour up/
you know a nigga low up/ do that from the flo’ up/
my bitch real bad pussy nigga put ya hoe up/
man I’m sick of these hoes, let me throw up/

(not sure about the last words on lines 1 and 5, but regardless, you can still definitely get the shitty picture)

That pile of garbage is from a song called Hello. Sure, it’s a song about nothing like most Young Dro songs. I don’t expect insight or complex concepts. But Shoulder Lean, while also being about nothing (definitely not about an alternative to dancing), was at least funny and had some lyricism in its rhyming. Here’s a great part of that song:

Pearl Benz, cockin’ hammer, Arm & Hammer propaganda/
Bitches think I’m pimpin’ in linen and salamander sandals/
Dirty South hot cuz Atlanta… show niggaz with ammo/
we ride Phantom, holla shawty for grammar/
Yep, now I be on TV, BET, out the channel/
Hood nigga from Bankhead, I stay by Grandma Nana/
I lay by my banana, dumpin’ and punkin’ monkeys/
Don’t nobody live with my mom but a bunch of junkies/

Both verses use multisyllabic rhymes, but Shoulder Lean‘s quote uses interesting words that don’t normally rhyme, has some internal rhymes in lines 1, 2, 3, 4, and 7, and has humor that doesn’t rely on being crass. Racial slurs isn’t funny, but taking pride in your linen suits and shoes made of amphibian skin most definitely is.

It may seem unfair to quote the the worst song on High Times, but Hello has a lot of mediocre company. The good songs occupy a very short list, and are best when only paid half attention. This is because, on this album at least, Dro’s best lyrics don’t hold up under deeper listening. For example, halfway through Hammer Time, Dro changes his flow and raps much faster. This is the closest he comes to Shoulder Lean‘s lyricism, but the song is still topically empty and missing the humor that a detailed listening would find on that old single. The best song for laughs is FDB (Fuck Dat Bitch), but its hilarious hook can’t fully smokescreen the vapid verses and dead-simple beat. Other ok-or-almost-good songs are Djuan and Spodee, and Odds. The former is basically Hammer Time‘s second half again but not quite as good, while the latter comes out of left field with an menacing tone and voice that makes Dro much more entertaining.

The rest is trash. Even the other songs with ok beats are ruined by bad raps. It’s not that I expect every song to be as lyrical as Shoulder Lean, but they have to be interesting in some way, and most aren’t. This can’t be the revival of lyrical rap. I expect an album of greatness to back up that claim. High Times isn’t even an album’s worth of lyrical effort.

 

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