M.O.P. often refers to themselves as a part of “the last generation”, as at one point, they represented one of the last hard-rock New York City hip-hop acts still holding a major label recording contract. We’ve all watched legends in the game get dissed by the major label system, as if they never helped shape hip-hop music, as artists like Kool G. Rap, Mobb Deep, Rakim, and others have been demoted to smaller distributors like Koch and Fontana. As M.O.P. watched their peers get swallowed up in this process – many of them hanging up the mic for good – eventually their time came as well, as deals with Roc-A-Fella Records and G-Unit left them in major label limbo forever and a day. One can blame downloading, Wal-Mart censorship, or simply the shift in popular music styles, but now M.O.P. finds themselves back on the indie circuit with their fifth official studio release, The Foundation.
Being tied up in label drama has not stopped M.O.P. from releasing their recordings however, as compilation albums such as the St. Marxmen series and Ghetto Warfare rounded up many of the Roc-A-Fella and G-Unit era tracks, but only acted as canon fodder, with no room for quality control, apparently nothing left on the studio floor. That being said, their last official album release was in 2000, with Warriorz. It’s hard to believe the album that spawned “Ante Up” is nine years old (!), but this borderline classic release found the group in their prime, under the executive production wing of DJ Premier. This rock solid release validated the legions of fans they gathered during their Relativity years, and created new ones, leading to a well-timed greatest hits package (10 Years & Gunnin’) for Loud in 2003. Suffice to say, among these scattered projects (including a rock mash-up album), M.O.P. has released roughly six discs of material since Warriorz, but none of these acted as an official LP. The Foundation is M.O.P.’s fifth album and follow-up to Warriorz, released on E1 Entertainment / Koch.
The album opens on the right foot with “I’m A Brownsvillian”, as they lay into a nasty blues riff provided by Nottz, riddling the track with a barrage of violent double entendres in their usual trademark fashion. This continues beautifully into “Let The Horns Blow”, a self-produced Fizzy Womack track that captures the essence of M.O.P. perfectly, suggesting that they haven’t lost their touch over the years. DJ Premier is present here for one track on the album with “What I Want To Be”, a harsh reality check where Rell painfully recounts the thoughts of growing up in Brooklyn. He changes it up in the last verse, singing, “they ask me what I want to be, if I grow up”, giving a heartbreaking reminder of the mentality of ghetto youth.
Much of this album is spent in misery, actually, which pulls it away from the wylin-out, buckshots-in-the-air LP that was Warriorz. “Street Life”, for instance, is another downer similar in vein to “What I Want To Be”, but this time it falls flat, as yet another tired cover of the Crusaders classic (ground already covered by 2Pac, Wu-Tang Clan, and countless others). “Forever Always” and “Rude Bastard” also continue on this sorrowful vibe, but work much better, thankfully. The same cannot be said for “Brooklyn”, however, which suffers from dated, late 90′s commercial production styles and a lazy hook. Positioning this much misery in the middle of the album seems like a bad move, as it robs them of their usual energy.
The album attempts to pick up the pace in the latter half, but at the point, many longtime fans will be itching for some harder-than-nails Primo beats, which it does not provide. DJ Green Lantern’s Jadakiss featured “Bang Time” is almost overkill, while DR Period’s “Sharks In The Water” is just kind of there. The Redman collaboration “Riding Through” unfortunately falls flat, while the strange production of “Salute A G” seems like an odd note to end things on.
Let’s face it – the Mash Out Posse has fallen on hard times. The energy that was found on Warriorz and the 10,000 remixes they were commissioned for in that era (“Bad Boy 4 Life”, “Call The Ambulance”, etc) is gone; it’s clear that they aren’t really in the mood for celebrating. Because this darker mood carries throughout much of the LP, they almost feel worn out and uninspired at times, unwilling to provide their usual L.O.N.S. inspired call and response with full regalia. All in all, The Foundation truly has some stand-out, classic M.O.P. moments on it – even in it’s more depressing moments – but for fans that are fifteen years and gunnin’, we’ve seen better from them. - D.T. Swinga
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