Anyone who knows me personally knows that I am in love with my work; it has carried me through a musical roller coaster of plateaus that often seem impossible to put into words. Earlier this month I received a review package from Death Row Records; a label known for controversy and politics associated with convicted felon Suge Knight. The pioneer label was acquired from Knight in 2009 by WideAwake entertainment group for the tune of a whopping $18,000,000. The purchase of the label of course included the Death Row catalogue; a topic controversial within itself. A few artists with music in that catalog are good friends of mine, and have disclosed to me that song royalties still have not been fully paid out on the music I was listening to.
Not being a big fan of politics in the music industry, if you aren’t careful enough to do your research you can walk right into controversy without knowing. As I started checking on my facts for the 2 CD’s mailed to me for review entitled “20 to Life – Rare and Dangerous” and “Doggy Bag”, to no surprise I came across some very serious politics. The more research I did; the more I came to realize in order to paint a clear picture I needed all the facts.
I have requested an interview with the new CEO of Death Row Records to discuss the acquisition of the label by WideAwake Entertainment. I look forward to sitting down with John Payne to discuss the future of Death Row and asking him why he chose to put out the new releases when the label allegedly hasn’t even paid out on royalties that have been due to the artists on the 2 new releases for years now. Always being a woman of my word regardless of the research I found; I decided to skip the politricks for the moment and give all the talented artists the due diligence of a thorough review of their classics.
As soon as I inserted “Doggy Bag” into my disc player that O.G. baseline and symbol, along with the harmony of Tha Dogg Pound’s voices took me back to a time when I was a youngster and first fell in love with hip hop. With each song I listened to I could name each artist instantly, as soon as I heard their voice. Daz the production beast, Kurrupt, the late Nate Dogg, Big Snoop Dogg and legendary producer/artist Warren G all on one disc again. Other guest appearances on this album include The Lady of Rage, Jewell, Too Short and more.
From a fan’s point of view, this CD is definitely something I would have to have in my car at all times. My favorite sounds from this album include the original version of “Let’s play house” ft. Mr. G Funk himself, Warren G & Michel’le, “It may Sound Crazy” (remix) ft. Too Short and “Save a life” ft. Prince Ital Joe.
After listening to “Doggy Bag” a few times in a row, I was ready to crack the seal on “20 to life rare and dangerous”. One thing’s for certain, whether the new releases were done out of an attempt for good publicity after the acquisition, or released to genuinely satisfy the fans who have been waiting YEARS to hear some of the songs, Death Row undoubtedly dug deep into the vaults for both albums. Perhaps a little of both; moving right along, let’s not forget that the 20 to life, rare and dangerous” is distinctly labeled Volume 1, which means more can be expected from Death Row Records.
What I wonder is if Death Row chooses not to do right by the artists and pay them their royalties, will there ever be a chance for growth outside cataloged music? How will it affect future releases? An even bigger question I can’t wait to ask Mr. Payne is; how does a former engineer become the CEO of Death Row Records? That’s a huge leap up the ladder. Better yet, what made him accept the opportunity? I’m pretty sure people in hell have a better chance at getting some ice water than the world has at ever getting any closure on that topic. Either way it goes the label still gets their cake.
“20 To Life” is laden with that classic west coast shoot ‘em up bang bang flava; definitely rated “R” for ruthless, adults ears only on this one. The lead song on this one was “So Crooked” by Redrum; although the track is great, “Untouchable” with Lady of Rage, Bloody Mary and Storm would have been my preference for the lead on this album. In the peak of her career; there wasn’t a female rapper today that could get with Rage. Wouldn’t it be great if fans could inspire her to come with it like she used to just one more time.
K-Solo and Kurupt have a hot song on “20 to Life” called “Wolf Tickets” but I actually really like the production on the re-recorded version that K-Solo did with KRAZE beats. The re-mix made when he allegedly couldn’t get the masters. I don’t know if it’s just because I am 35 now and not 18, but as soon as “After 3” by Lil Bow Wow came on I tensed up immediately. Although the production and the other artists on the track sounded great holding down their verses and the chorus; I wanted to wash then 6 year old Lil Bow Wow’s mouth out with a bar of lye soap after hearing a storm of swearing come out his mouth. I can see why this vintage song is just now being heard for the first time; what was his publicist thinking when they allowed him to record that kind of song at 6? After hearing this song, I can’t even begin to imagine all that Bow wow has seen in his young career.
On a positive note I love“3 Wishes” by Jewell; and could never get tired of hearing it. What a great song to remind us why we all fell in love with Jewell’s voice when she first came out. J-Flexx, O.F.T.B and Soopafly are also some blast from the past artists with amazing songs on this release. All in all both CD’s turned out to be great listens but I definitely favor the overall sound of “Doggy Bag” over “20 To Life”; it just catered to my funk bone better.
27 songs listened to; not all of them I cared for, but I definitely respect the contributions made to this golden era of hip hop by all of the artists. I give “Doggy Bag” 5 out of 5 stars and “20 to life” 3 out of 5 stars as a final result of my music reviews.