Saturday, January 24, 2009

Guilty Simpson - Ode to the Ghetto

Guilty Simpson
Ode to the Ghetto
Stones Throw, 2008

This was an album I was super excited about, then super disappointing by, and now am learning to love. I saw Guilty perform live a few times, and he was always a great presence. I also liked his guest spots on the J Dilla album The Shining, and Percee P's debut. Guilty has a more hardcore style than the rest of the Stones Throw crew, and it worked for me. He was also the classic sensitive thug, doing a track about his abusive father over James Brown's "It's A Man's World."

Mans World - Guilty Simpson

Then his debut, Ode To the Ghetto, finally came out last March. Pitchfork gave it a meager 4.5, and what's worse, they had a point. It was sort of sub-par gangsta rap, and there was a lot of generic shit on it. Robbery is probably the worst offender, with not even Guilty sounding sold on his half-baked lines:

02 Robbery.wma - Guilty Simpson

"A broke-ass nigga I'm not gonna be/That's why I keep a glock on me." Ugh.

Still, the beat is nice, which is true for most of the album. Guilty was championed by the late J Dilla, and the album is full of top notch production work by fellow Detroit producer Black Milk and Madlib. It was the beats that got me to stick around and actually give Ode to the Ghetto a chance, and I finally started warming up to it. Yeah, Guilty's flow is a little basic and unadorned, and his choice of subject matter is played out, but when he's on he's on. My favorite track is "Pigs," a police diss that makes good use of Madlib's "Freeze" beat from The Beatkonducta in India:

09 Pigs.wma - Guilty Simpson
The Bollywood beat contrasts nicely with Guilty's tales of urban America. In the end, the production work and Guilty's more shining moments on the mic won me over. I hope that in the future he does less stuff like "Getting Bitches," and more stuff like "Pigs." The world doesn't need another dumb thug, but it could use a gangsta backpacker.

(Image borrowed from TradingTapes.)

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