If there’s one thing that Hollywood has taught me over the years, it’s that having famous family can definitely make building a name for yourself a pretty difficult operation. Gifted with an abundance of talent, even the most exciting actors have been held back by the shadows of well-known brethren; ever wonder why Emilio Estevez never moved past Mighty Ducks? The same idea extends into the realm of music, preventing a diverse collection of promising artists from achieving success, including founding Lox/D-Block member Sheek Louch. Having never reached the same level of prominence as fellow group members, Styles P or Jadakiss, Sheek’s latest effort Silverback Gorilla, is an unsuccessful attempt at changing the status quo, and instead comes across as a mostly generic record with a few stand-outs.
Sheek starts things off on a deceivingly high note with the region-defying club jam, “Think We Got A Problem”, featuring Texas MC Bun B, and Compton bred lyricist The Game. Trading verbal barbs over a beat sure to blow your subs, The Game steals the show by demonstrating his lyrical finesse: Think we got a problem, I snitched on myself, and I hate rats, so I dug a ditch for myself… Regrettably, this theme stays consistent for most of the album, as Sheek fails to rise to the same level as most of his guests, most notably on tracks “D-Block-Dipset” and “Gettin’ Stronger”, both of which feature D-Block co-stars Styles P and Jadakiss.
The downward trend is partially averted with “Good Love”, “We Comin’”, and “Don’t Be Them”, tracks which initially seem outside of Sheek’s stylistic range. With “Good Love”, Sheek slides into a comfortably mellow soul groove based on a Betty Wright sample from the early 1970′s; with a relaxed tempo unlike most of his work, Sheek forms a track destined to be a hit. On “We Comin’” featuring Atlanta DJ/Rapper Unk, Sheek gives in to temptation and rhymes over a crunk beat sure to move thugs in the club. Finally, on “Don’t Be Them”, Sheek shows a bit of lyrical consciousness on a track which compels members of the younger generation from working a career on the streets. The hook is pretty straight forward: Don’t be them/ Don’t be Jigga, Don’t be Nas, Don’t be Kim…/Be Yourself, For real, Don’t be Them… It’s always a treat to hear a grimy rapper send out a positive message.
Regrettably, for the rest of the album, Sheek reverts to his gangster tendencies on a number of tracks, which while not bad, are generally forgettable. “We at War”, “That’s A Soldier” and “We Spray Crowds” all fall victim to similar themes, similar verses, and similar beats, and will most likely be forgotten within 5 minutes of the end of the track. The same can be said for much of the album as a whole. After a few listens, the tracks begin to bleed into one another and become largely indistinguishable.
All in all, Silverback Gorilla is an average album. It definitely won’t win any awards or contend for album of the year, but it won’t be considered a horrible album either. So, if you’re down with hard East Coast rap, you should definitely check it out. But, if you’re like me, and look for a something a little different in your hip hop, check out the noteworthy tracks and singles, but wait for Sheek’s next attempt. – Michael Rodriguez
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