I remember Clue tapes from back when mixtapes were the internet, before blogs and iTunes and Spotify. Big-name DJs were the gatekeepers to the industry for artists who needed more attention. DJ Clue was one of the biggest names during his time, he even had a deal and albums with Roc-A-Fella! Given that history, I grabbed DJ Clue’s Banned From CD Part 1* as soon as I saw it, so I could see what a Clue tape sounds like in 2015.
Turns out…not that great.
I don’t doubt that I’ve got a rose-tinted view of old Clue tapes, but in 2015 his product sounds extra regular. It starts out really good with Fabolous’ Bas Freestyle (over Dr. Dre’s Bitches Ain’t Shit instrumental):
I got a homie with a shotty, point-blank squeezin
He’ll pump you in the chest like you ain’t breathin
If it’s a bunch of y’all ain’t no complaints either
He do that job with a mac, name ain’t Stevens
But the very next song, Two Curses, is Jadakiss rapping on the classic The Roc instrumental (originally used by Cam’ron), which I would’ve thought that Jadakiss rapped on years ago, because didn’t everybody from New York already use this beat??? Whereas Brooklyn’s Fabolous on a classic West Coast beat had some novelty, this instead feels like a New York mc grave-robbing for attention. And it surely doesn’t help matters that this verse is mediocre for Jadakiss.
I’m now worried that this song is a metaphor for DJ Clue: in 2015 is he scrounging songs from the bones of New York’s former greatness? No, because he’s nowhere near that picky. So Fetty Wap’s My Way remix (fun in its terribleness) is here. As is a remix of Omarion’s ‘Posed To Be (originally fun but bland new verses), and a Flicka Da Wrist remix (again, ruining the original fun with new verses). On a positive note, Meek Mill has a song with Migos, Basic Bitches, that sounds like vintage Miami Bass and is much too fun for me to dislike. And of course there’s plenty of throwaway-ass, filler songs from people like French Montana and Jim Jones.
At this point, I’m ready to finish this review, but I have to take the time to discuss Murda Mook and T-Rex’s attempt to scale the mountain that is the Deep Cover instrumental. First, let’s talk about why Deep Cover is a big deal. Snoop and Dr. Dre made it into a perfect song about criminals versus undercover cops, back in 1992. Then Big Pun and Fat Joe somehow topped that in 1998, with a song that isn’t really about anything but dope rhymes. (If “dead in the middle of Little Italy” means nothing to you, then google it and watch the video. Now! Now catch your breath.) So it’s one of those beats that the greatest rappers have already blessed to the extreme, therefore anyone else who tries to use it has to bring their perfect-score-on-the-SATs, A+ game to. But not for one moment did I feel like these battle rappers did this historic instrumental justice. Probably because they’re punchline rappers with basic flows, where Pun and Snoop’s lyrical rhythms are what made their rhymes so magnificent. Or maybe Mook and T-Rex just didn’t try. I’ve definitely heard better material from them in their battles. Either way, the instrumental is misused so badly that I had to get that out of my system. Moving on…
I think what hurts me the most about Banned From CD Part 1 is that New York mixtapes were the place to go to for the New York sound and rhymes. I guess I’m supposed to get that from the Paul Cain, Ransom, and Jadakiss songs, but the first two guys don’t impress me, and Jadakiss is real hit or miss here, probably because a DJ Clue mixtape isn’t a priority for him anymore. So when everything else is filler, trendy stuff from other regions, or unnecessary remixes of bonafide national hits, I wonder if DJ Clue needs to exist anymore if even he can’t make a New York tape. I wonder if that task is even possible when rappers can and do push their own songs through like blogs, and when some of the most notable new New York artists sound like they’re from the south.
- Fabolous – Bas Freestyle**
- Meek Mill – Basic Bitches ft Migos
- Problem – Major Problem
- Jadakiss – Block Work ft Styles P
*I love that this is called Banned From CD, as if anything about any of these songs is so explicit that they can only be released on an underground mixtape. I miss this kind of exaggeration in marketing.
**This song is also on a DJ Clue/Fabolous mixtape full of freestyles, which explains why it’s so much better than everything else here. I plan on getting to that mixtape very soon.