“I’m so high, you so high, I be getting money till the die that I die.” With that chorus (and the unforgettable Buckwild production that accompanied it) ringing loudly from every borough in N.Y.C., Mic Geronimo’s “Masta I.C.” became an almost instant block anthem in 1995. Yet, while Mic sounded like the next emcee in line to further Queens’ legacy, his criminally slept-on 1995 debut, The Natural, had the great misfortune of being overshadowed by magnum opus releases of the same period by more personable (Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt), vivid (Raekwon’s Only Built for Cuban Links), and grimy emcees (Mobb Deep’s The Infamous).
When Mic returned to the scene in 1997, the landscape of hip-hop was already undergoing a dramatic facelift, as Sean “Puffy” Combs and Notorious B.I.G. were already well on there way to rewriting the rules. Attempting to keep pace with the “Diddy’s” Mic shifted his style as well with his sophomore effort, Vendetta, (which also included guest spots from Jay-Z, DMX, Lox, and Ja Rule) but got lost in the sauce after his Diddy assisted lead-single, “Nothin’ Move But The Money,” went wood—and minus being featured on a MTV sex & relationships documentary (we ain’t forget about that) an occasional guest spot, or compilation appearance, Mic has been virtually MIA for six-years.
With the aptly-titled comeback vehicle, Long Road Back, Mic G takes another major step back by once again playing into commercial trends. Besides the overwhelming amount of commercial/R&B reaches, the first thing that jumps out at you with Long Road Back is its reoccurring theme, as Mic attempts to mirror the style of just about any hip-hop artist that is currently entrenched on the Billboard charts—perhaps a more suitable title for this LP would have been Heard It All Before. And while Mic’s voice can still be as smooth as an Iverson tear-drop runner in the lane (flows lovely over acoustic guitars on “I’m Alive” before Tyrese’s corny chorus thwarts any playback value), after previously working with a slew of NYC’s finest beat conductors (Buckwild, Beatminerz, Pete Rock, Havoc, Beatminerz, Diddy), Mic has entrusted his return to a slew of relative newcomers, Jimi Kendrix & Dat Nigga Reb (at least there unoriginality pervades into their stage names as well) who are more adept at clinging too other producers styles then defining their own. With “Gone” sped up and manipulated voice samples are integrated without the same flair or dramatic flourishes that Just Blaze and Kanye West have seemingly mastered, the grating “Murder and Mic G” feat. Cadillac Tah, Black Child, and Ronnie Bumps is the latest scourge in a rash of Swizz Beatz imitations and while “Keep It Hot” packs enough energy, it lacks the melodic appeal of the duo (Neptunes) it attempts to emulate and Ja-Rule’s appearance on “Fly High” merely quells the monotony for a brief moment. Even the usually dependable Large Professor fails to deliver, as he contributes a dated thruway synthesizer track (“Up Now”) that fails miserably.
While Long Road Back is calculating to a fault. When Mic eschews the lite radio fare, he finds a comfort zone with the harder-edged “All Said And Done” and the singy-songy “M.I.C.” both of which generate a consistent head-nod. But for those of us who remain rutted in the street nihilism of the mid-90′s, Long Road Back is just another example of how much hip-hop has changed. While Mic cannot be faulted for wanting a more universal appeal—seeing everyone in your immediate circle (DMX, Irv Gotti, Jay-Z, Ja-Rule) go on to make millions has to be a hard pill to swallow—we can knock him for not doing it well. Fortunately, for Mic G., he is one of those emcees from our past that we will habitually check for. But after two consecutive hiccups, it’s very evident that the Masta I.C. has a very Long Road to travel too regain respectability.
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