Welcome to Cash Money, Mr. Mystikal. For your first task, you must do a single with Birdman…
Edward Okulicz: I was down with the sweetly grainy, whiney backing. I was down with Mystikal getting his Cookie Monster on like “Shake Ya Ass” was only yesterday (and man, “Shake Ya Ass” could totally have been released yesterday). Then Wayne actually dropped “Robitussin” into a verse full of non-sequitur statements of bad ass-ness (Pain killers! Pistol-whipping! Killing people!), which is not only cringe-worthy, but downright lame and dorky. Also, let’s just say repetition doesn’t do Birdman’s chorus any favours. There’s a tight three-thirty in here if you thin the herd a bit first.
Alfred Soto: Heaving and burping like a frog sunning himself on a lily pad, Mystikal is as world-class a sound effect as he was in 2000. Wayne is Wayne, but less so; he’s lost rhythm and verve. Meanwhile Birdman plays Zeppo Marx and does less well.
Jonathan Bradley: Birdman has the particular talent of being so bad at rapping that a listener might reasonably suspect him of being too successful to even bother trying. He has such a palpable indolence when on the mic that his prowess ceases to be an issue; it seems impressive that he could be bothered to show up. (Let alone make words rhyme — which he never does.) Mystikal, by contrast, always sounds like he’s trying, which is part of his charm: that frenetic growl he spatters over tracks is twice as appealing because it sounds so exhausting. “Original” has the wrong combination, however: too little of Mystikal’s effort and too much of Birdman’s stalling. It also has a verse from Lil Wayne that is better than much of what he’s done lately. Sadly, it’s still rather dismal. Cash Money should have given Weezy the day off and let Mystikal grumble some more.
Michelle Myers: I do sort of wish this was just a Mystikal song. His frantic delivery and the ridiculous trunk-knock subbass take back to the late ’90s so hard. Am I being pandered to here? Oh well.
Iain Mew: I love the intoxicating high pitched sample and Mystikal’s mad and unpredictable ranting, funny and scary in roughly equal measure. The chorus doesn’t do much though and any momentum comes screeching to a total halt once Lil Wayne comes in and the beat drops out.
Brad Shoup: Welcome to hip-hop in the ’10s, Mystikal. Melancholy tune featuring a squealing, streaky figure. I don’t really want or expect him to match his surroundings with introspection or remorse, so his Lady Macbeth act is a heady choice indeed. I dunno who compared him to a composer when DMX is clearly at the fingertips. More than any rapper I can think of, Mystikal is a shadowboxer: eyes twitching nervously, mind uneasy, his hands ready to protect himself. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to realize that the battleground has moved, and the line about feeling like a political refugee gains a sick power for his sounding dead serious. Wayne’s genial brand of craziness doesn’t have much effect on his labelmate, an unfortunate feces joke notwithstanding.
Frank Kogan: My grandfather was an actual political refugee (I don’t really know the story, but in Minsk I think, in 1912 or so, he was president or vice-president of his university’s Social Democrats, a banned organization, and he was arrested and sent to prison in Siberia, from which he escaped, came to America by way of Vladivostok and Seattle, ended up in Chicago), and the activities he was imprisoned for derived from a concern for social justice. He died when I was three, and my being his grandson doesn’t give me any special authority, but it is 500 degrees of problematic when this track starts “I’m a political refugee, that’s how I felt.” No! Mystikal was in jail for sexual assault and extortion. He believed his hairstylist had ripped him off, and he and two bodyguards, as cold punishment, forced her to have oral sex with the three of them. Now I don’t think the guy should be blacklisted, or dismissed out of hand. I’ve always liked the frenetic JB voice he puts on things. But if he’s going to rap about the sexual hypocrisy of white authorities (“Call me porch monkey, call me jigaboo/When you know you wanna fuck my woman, eat my barbecue”), I’d sure like to hear actual self-knowledge. “They constantly fucking us up/That’s why we buck wild” isn’t it. Strangely, right out of prison, he was asked if he thought rappers were unfairly targeted and he said, “That’s an easy excuse to say that, but we got to take responsibility for what we do too, you know? We can’t be fools.” (At 5:40 here.) I’ve listened to six interviews of his today, which is hardly exhaustive. He sounded likable, didn’t seem a monster, and said again that he’d made stupid decisions, that he owed his family. What he never owned up to was that he’d terrorized and violated and humiliated another human being. As for this track: Birdman’s a dead weight, Wayne’s spacey in a half-back-to-interesting way, and Mystikal’s energy is good and his braggadocio isn’t half bad. But wisdom should take him away from bragging. Would be a 5.0 without the backstory.