Back when I reviewed New York City, Troy Ave was totally new to me, and that album floored me. Hearing somebody make good, moody New York gangster rap again was so exciting that, if I was giving scores back then, that album would have gotten at least a four out of five. But with Major Without a Deal, Troy is coming to exhibit something much less desirable: a myopic, self-centeredness that’s infecting and ruining his music.
What makes me say that? First, the lyrical content. I don’t expect wordplay from Troy, nor do I need insight. But he does a lot of bragging on this album. A LOT. And not just of the general conspicuous consumption variety. No, what’s most grating about Troy’s lyrical self-love is that so much of it is based on “I’ve got what you don’t” boasts. I don’t remember this being a problem on the last album, but I do remember that Troy got much less interesting in his mixtapes after New York City. So maybe success went to his head? That seems to be the case, because he couldn’t accept any criticism or stop preaching his own greatness in this recent Hot 97 interview:
At first his narrow focus and passion just felt like self-promotion, but now it’s looking like something ugly. Yeah, a song like Doo Doo, about the haters who help fuel his ambition, might be ok minus the nursery rhyme beat and hook. But looking at the whole album, I wonder if Troy feels that his success isn’t as significant without others’ failures. Why else would there be so much music like Young King* and Fake Butt Busta, that’s not just about how Troy is smart and rich, but how other people aren’t these things. A whole very-not-clever song about disliking fake butts and clothes? Why is that necessary?!?
My other big problem with Major Without a Major Deal is the beat selection. Most of the mood of New York City is gone, replaced by generic New York instrumentals. There’s no clear personality here. Is a Troy the fun-loving street guy on Doo Doo? Or the menacing gangster on Bang Bang and I’m Bout It? And the beats are mostly boring, which along with Troy’s lyrics problems above makes for a pretty terrible album. Either he has bad taste this time around, or he mistakenly thinks he can carry an album with his empty words.
A few songs here are good, exclusively those that feature big names (check the highlight list below). Troy really is Major Without a Major Deal, his music is just as lame as the major deal signees that he can’t stop contrasting himself with.
- I’m Bout It ft Fat Joe
- Bang Bang ft 50 Cent
- Do Me No Favors ft Jadakiss and Fabolous
- Anytime ft Snoop Dogg
*On Young King, not only does Troy remake Raphael Saadiq’s beautiful Still Ray into a lifeless, naked put-down session, but he sings half the song, voice cracking throughout! Does he think he’s being funny like Biggie’s Player Haters??? Many other songs are hurt by his tortuous singing, but this is the worst of the worst!
**Other inexplicable things on this album that, aka when did Troy get this bad?!?!:
- There’s really a song called Finagle the Bagel, where that stupid non-saying is uttered. I refuse to accept that people say that.
- The first two lines of the hook on Love You are, “I just wanna love her, She won’t let me love her, Too busy being a bitch, too busy being in my shit.” Seriously? Too busy being a bitch?
- A version of Do Betta appeared on Troy’s White Christmas 2 mixtape . But at least this time Ty Dolla $ign is on the hook instead of Troy’s struggly voice.
- Gimme Dat [head] is lame and obvious. So of course the feature choice is A$AP Ferg.