Hailing from Detroit and signed to Stones Throw Records, Guilty piggybacked into the game during the final stretch of J Dilla’s celebrated career. After a smattering of singles and a hot fi-ya mixtape by J-Rocc, (of the World Famous Beat Junkies) fans were anxious for a proper full length. Well here it is, and those who have been following Guilty from the jump will find no surprises on Ode To the Ghetto.
His wit, charm and calculated swagger are all in top form for his solo debut. Folks expecting a lyrically diverse record should keep it moving, because Guilty is almost too consistent, to the point of sounding repetitive. Luckily he’s recruited some of the best producers in the game to diversify his thundering verses and rewind-worthy punchlines.
Madlib, Oh No, Mr. Porter, and Black Milk take turns at the helm with varying success on Ode To The Ghetto. Mr. Porter comes the weakest, especially on “Robbery” with its annoying and repetitive synth work. Luckily for Mr. Simpson, his label-mate Madlib saves the day with his spaced out boom-clap trademark. “Pigs” features Madlib’s psychedelic approach to a tribal dancehall riddim, and Guilty going nuts about rap’s favorite scapegoat—la policia. “Yikes” continues Madlib’s production dominance on the album. He apparently took a break from the boards to catch up on some Super Nintendo because this banger sounds like a hip hop version of the theme from Bowser’s Castle in Super Mario World.
I hate to be the one to say it, but it seems the J Dilla archives are finally dwindling. He has one posthumous contribution on the track “I Must Love You”, but the beat is sub-par by the standard Mr. Yancey established. Not to mention Guilty’s embarrassing attempt at singing on the hook. Black Milk, aka Junior J Dilla, drops some haunted synths on “My Moment” and chops up the “Big Beat” drums on “The Real Me”. Both tracks are superb, due to their Dilla-esque qualities.
You’re going to love or hate this album three tracks in, but at least you know what to expect from Mr. Simpson. He sticks to what he knows, which thankfully is the art of ripping mics. Lyrically, Ode to the Ghetto is a solid freshman full-length from one of Stones Throw’s finest. Maybe next time around he will stick with Madlib and become the weeded out Gang Starr of the 21st Century. That would be fantastic. – Chris Seeger
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