Sunday, March 29, 2009
Amplified Grammar Reviews....
Jim Jones - Pray IV Reign
You gotta admire the grind of Jim Jones. From his humble beginnings as Cam'ron's hypeman, to becoming the third MC in the Harlem rap collective, The Diplomats, to establishing his own label & becoming a successful solo artist in his own right, peaking with his last release "Hustler's P.O.M.E.(Product of My Environment)" which spawned one of the biggest songs of the '06, "We Fly High". Jones has spent the interim churning out various "official" mixtapes & pushing his Byrd Gang brand, but has finally returned to cash in on his newfound stature with his major label debut, the aptly titled Pray IV Reign.
From the outset, it's obvious that this is a major label affair. The production quality has been ramped up a couple of notches, with the No I.D. produced "Album Intro" setting the theatrical tone for the rest of the LP. Songs like "Rain", "Let It Out", "This Is The Life" & the tribute to murdered Byrd Gang member, Stack Bundles, "My My My", are introspective tomes, where Jones gives us a look behind the ego & bravado. I'd imagine these songs were at the heart of Jim's off-Broadway production "The Hip Hop Monologues: Inside the Life and Mind of Jim Jones".
The song I was expecting to be a standout is "Frenemies", where Jim was supposed to delve into his fall outs with former friend Cam'ron & his former protege, Max B. The beat (a re-working of Jay-Z's "A Week Ago") should've provided the perfect backdrop for Jones to air out his issues. Instead, Jones comes off extremely vauge & bitter, especially considering how Jim could've really used either of them to help out on this album.
Now, no one has ever accused Jim Jones of being a lyricist & while he has stepped his game up, his rhyme schemes & flow still leave much to be desired. He gets outshined on the Ludacris assisted "How To Be A Boss" as well as by his Byrd Gang cohorts on the street banger, "Pop Off". Jones' attempts to cater to both the streets & the clubs on Pray IV Reign & the results are a mixed bag at best. While Jim excels over a Ron Browz track on the party starter "Pop Champagne", he manages to butcher the Ryan Leslie produced "Precious", rapping BS come on's to some unseen female. The album's other mainstream offerings ("Na Na Nana Na", "Medicine", "Blow the Bank", "This Is For My Bitches", "Girlfriends", etc.) are equally hit or miss.
Ultimately, Pray IV Reign is a celebration of Jim Jones' success as well as a glimpse at the paranoia one faces once you achieve his level of celebrity. It's also the most balanced album in Jones' catalog. Even though there is nothing on here that matches "We Fly High" ("Pop Champagne" comes pretty close), Jim Jones has shown growth with each new project & these days, that's really all you can ask of an artist. While this album might not bring the "Reign" Jim's been praying for, it's not exactly the flop his detractors have been praying for either. Face it, Capo's not going anywhere.
Bonus: The video for the 3rd single...
Blow The Bank (Feat. Oshy & Starr)