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     I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a card-carrying member of the Dipset fan club.  Nothing personal, but in my passing spins of their catalog, I just don’t see much difference between them and any other rappers spittin’ the same content.  There are more of these cliques than you can count on your fingers and toes.  So the first word that comes to mind is “cliche” the exact opposite of the album’s title.  Think about it: Juelz’ pink-clad mentor just got shot in D.C. in an attempted carjacking.  Terrible incident and I’m glad to hear Cam is recovering nicely, but even that ended up being cliche Was anyone remotely surprised when they heard about it?  If that happened to Common, we’d be shocked and that dude’s from Southside Chicago.  We hear some much gat and trap chat coming out of the Dipset, G-Unit, and D-Block camps that this IS the game.  If anything was missing, this wasn’t it. 

    But as any self-respecting critic should, I gave Santana’s second (official) effort a fair shake.  No, the content still ain’t change.  But, after closer inspection, what is different is how Juelz presents it.  His smoky staccato switches up from track-to-track, sometimes even mid-verse.  This unconventional style adds an extra dimension to the album and keeps things interesting when thoughts of “Wait, haven’t I heard this before?” start creeping in.  Juelz has long been touted as Dipset’s golden child and the best moments of “What the Game’s Been Missing!” highlight the strengths of this Harlem “shotta”. 

    Santana stick-and-moves his way along the first few cuts, sparring with his instrumental. Producers like the Heatmakers, the Doe Boys, and Neo Da Matrix construct Roy Jones Jr. beats, powerful and deliberate.  Santana is Winky Wright, ducking and diving before sticking you with jabs when you’re exposed.  “Rumble Young Man Rumble”, “There It Go (The Whistle Song)”, and the Bezel assisted “Violence” demonstrate this unusual scuffle.  The best joint on the album, the trap-heavy posse cut “Make It Work For You” with Young Jeezy and Lil’ Wayne, shows that Juelz’ off-kilter flow is spreading like bird flu.  All three rappers decide to rhyme slightly off beat, winning a split decision over a chirping, neck-snapping Doe Boys beat.  Other notables are the Pink Panther aided “Shottas” and “Clockwork”, entertaining tracks with the added bonus of having the audacity to make up new words and turn them into songs.  Care to elaborate, Juelz?  “I mean nigga, if you get money, that’s clockwork.  If you’re hustlin’, that’s clockwork.  Bitch, if you’re out there sellin’ ass, that’s clockwork.  If you’re out there pimpin’ homie, that’s clockwork.  Holla at me, aye!”  Oh, now we get it….

     If course, it’s not all smiles and giggles.  “Good Times” and “This Is Me” just doesn’t sound right coming out of Santana.  Trapping for a full album will do that to you.  Can you blame listeners for being a little skeptical?  I mean c’mon, they’re followed by “Make It Work For You” and “Freaky”, respectively.  I’m all for dichotomy, but normally that requires some sort of yin-yang balance.  Juelz’ crack game agenda is like the fat kid on the teeter-totter and his “This Is Me” tracks are Gary Coleman.  The other problem is obvious: too much time spent on the snow.  Well I guess it is December….

     At the end of the day, if I have to choose between a mediocre album that’s consistently average  and an uneven album, one with flashes of greatness and straight garbage, I’ll pick the latter every time.  I’d rather skip tracks than skip whole albums.  Musicians who are afraid to take risks artistically make average albums (i.e. albums no one will ever hear).  Juelz threw caution to the wind and takes a swipe at a variety of vocal deliveries and beats.  Some work, others don’t.  But those that do will get people to empty their wallets and, more importantly, guarantees Santana will be back for a third album.  Anyone know what ever happened to B Rich?  Thought so.  Aye!

  Mixtape D.L.
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