DJ Babu’s Duck Season 3 is bittersweet. If you haven’t been paying attention to what is happening in the world of subterranean hip-hop as of late, Duck Season 3 offers the perfect snapshot of what’s currently hot in backpack land, and also, exactly what is currently wrong with the scene. More than just a mixtape, Duck Season 3 is a thinly veiled way for the Dilated Junkie to present his own LP to the world, spotlighting his production. Babs produces most of the album himself, allowing him to showoff his vastly underrated beat skills, and as an added bonus, is mixed together by him as well.
Needless to say, Babs shows his natural knack as a DJ and paces this album perfectly. It opens with a freestyle from his Dilated brethren, as Rakaa and Evidence introduce the album over a set of raucous horns, leading perfectly into his next selection, “Dearly Departed” by M.O.P. As a longtime fan of the crew, Babs lends another banging horn driven track to Brownsville’s finest, who kill it with ease. The HOJ crew steps up for “Fan Mail”, as Little Brother are joined by D-Brock and Joe Scudda, as Babs sews it together with “Dearly Departed” by cutting up a classic M.O.P. sample over chopped up funk and blues samples. The album kicks into high gear on easily its best track, “The Unexpected”, where MF Doom and Sean Price deliver numerous body blows over an original beat (thankfully no recycled Special Herbs or Donuts for the umpteenth time).
Speaking of Donuts, Guilty Simpson holds Detroit on his back on “Frozen”, proving he doesn’t need a Dilla beat to do so. A.G. also shows he hasn’t missed a beat on “East West Connection”, as he effortlessly slides into character, Showbiz beat or not. Newcomer Bishop Lamont justifies his Aftermath record deal on “My Opinion”, while Kardinal Offishall shows that despite his newfound pop status he can still hang with the best of them, as he and Rakka-Iriscience freestyle over minimalist drums.
But, as mentioned before, the album is bittersweet, and is paced perfectly. Reason being is that Babu grabs your attention with album’s first set of high-powered selections and top tier talent. Like a good DJ, once he has you hooked in, he takes a few liberties and slides in some B and C list tracks. At this point, the album declines in quality track by track, as it begins to become overrun by favors, homies, and local Cali artists – which are inevitable on any mixtape by any high-profile DJ.
Many Stones Throw alum / dropouts deliver their selections, as Duck Season 3′s latter half becomes a place where half-baked rappers go to die. Thankfully, the Cali Agents (Rasco and Planet Asia) sound reinvigorated on Babu’s “Graveyardshiftin’” track, but M.E.D. (“It’s A New Day”) and the pair of Oh No & Roc C (“Meant To Be”) prove why their albums didn’t sell on their respective selections. The derivative “SBX2LAX2OX” (featuring Wildchild & Percee P) begs the question as to why collaborating rappers from different cities always title their songs with this formula, then answers the query with it’s bland, unoriginal content. Meanwhile, the “always-show-up-to-the-party” crews Strong Arm Steady (“O.G.”), Psycho Realm, and Self Scientific (“Black & Brown Army”) overstay their welcome, as usual. Sadly, the album ends with a selection by kid-rapper Niko on “Ahead of My Time”, which only confuses the audience.
Harsh criticisms aside, there are several can’t miss selections on Duck Season 3. Again, the album provides a play-by-play analysis of what is great about the underground scene and what is wrong with it. The pros of Duck Season 3 include the fact that this is a true mixtape, mixed to perfection by a true DJ, spotlighting a handful of some of the scenes brightest stars doing what they do best over Babu’s strong production. The cons of the album show the scene’s problem with nepotism and politics, as lackluster artists that have friendships with Babs force their way on to the record. Regardless, in today’s day and age of digital music, after listening through it once, many fans will keep the songs they like, delete the ones they don’t. If only Babu could have done the same. – D.T. Swinga
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