Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Trick Trick Plays "The Villain"
Artist: Trick Trick
Album: The Villain
Koch Recordings, 2008

Chris Mathis, aka 'Trick Trick', has a history of being a Detroit-area underground/local rap personality since the 1990s, and is a contemporary of people who have since come to national prominence like Kid Rock and Eminem. “The Villain” is his second official LP on a mainstream label.

Music-wise, the bulk of production on the album is credited to the artist, incorporating live keyboard and funk-bass riffs with drum-machine rhythm tracks. It will bring to mind post-millennial West Coast hip-hop. Lyrically, the usual targets are here as befits gangster-rap standards (player haters, cops, disloyal associates), amidst shout-outs to Detroit neighborhoods and Trick’s extended posse the Goon Sqwad. Perhaps incredibly, Trick also includes Rosie O’Donnell and Ellen Degeneres on his list of folks to be mad at (on the self-referential “Trick Trick”).

Trick Trick enlists various Detroit-based friends for collaborations on the album. Among them include Eminem, who contributes vocals to “Who Want It” (he also produces here as well as on “Follow Me”). Royce Da 5-9 guests on “All Around the World”. “2 Getha 4 Eva” is a posse cut featuring Kid Rock (who contributes a now-rare rap verse), Esham and the late Proof of D-12, updating Run-DMC’s “Together Forever”. Other collaborations include “Let it Fly” with Ice Cube, who makes a humorous reference to a recent political scandal involving a former Detroit mayor. One of the best songs on the LP is “Hold On”, produced by Dr. Dre’, which should have been a lead single.

One of the closing songs on the album is “Let Go” where Trick reminisces about his spiritual journey and belief in higher power. That this track is preceded by over 40 minutes of violent threats may come across as disingenuous, but like DMX before him, one can only presume that Trick is being sincere.

If there is a downer on this album it’s the relentless homophobia on certain songs. It may be par for the thug-culture worldview, but if Eminem can work with Elton John and not blink… In any case, hardcore rap enthusiasts will find a standard-bearer in Trick Trick, but this is likely not the LP to make him a breakout star like his pals.

Grade: B

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