Redman, ‘Mudface’ [ALBUM REVIEW]
When it comes to naming the greatest rappers of all time, there are few as underappreciated as Reggie "Redman" Noble.
Redman made a name for himself in '90s with a string of classic albums. His first three -- Whut? Thee Album, Dare Iz a Darkside and Muddy Waters -- might be the best streak of three albums in hip-hop history. Noble was a lyrical force, a pioneer in the art of punchline rapping in his prime. He had a run of six No. 1 albums on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart from 1994 through 2001: four as a solo artist, one as a member of Def Squad and one with Method Man.
The average hip-hop listener, especially younger fans, will forget him or leave him out of the conversation of great rappers. Some people might know him more for his acting in How High or as a character in the Def Jam video games than for his music. Sad, but true.
Yet while Redman might not be your favorite rapper, there's a decent chance he's your favorite rapper's favorite rapper. Noble boasts a connection to the Wu-Tang Clan and was an influence on Eminem. On "Till I Collapse," Em listed Redman first on his list of greatest rappers, along with Jay-Z, 2Pac and the Notorious B.I.G. among others.
Watch Redman's "N---- Like Me" Video
Redman's decline in popularity as a rapper has shown itself in his record sales. His last album, 2010's Reggie, failed to crack the top 20 of the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. His new effort, Mudface, will likely face a similar fate.
It's a shame Mudface might be buried by other recent releases (Redman's former label Def Jam alone dropped four albums on the same day as Reggie) because it shows that Red still has it. It's almost impressive because the album is pretty much admittedly a placeholder project until he finally releases Muddy Waters 2.
Mudface is a no-frills record. The album is only 13 tracks in length, including two skits. It barely takes more than half an hour to get through the whole thing. There's no attempt at a crossover single. There are no big-name features and barely any features at all. It's a bare-bones effort. Redman has never needed to rely on anything more than his bars; he sure as hell isn't going to do anything different now.
Redman is 45 now, but he's still rapping like he's 25. His punchlines still hit harder than almost anyone else in the game, even if the references he makes are plain ridiculous. On "Gettin' Inside," he raps, "Boy I don't jive, my tribe gon' kick it / Syrup in my cup, no I ain't gonna sip it / Money over hoes but hoes want money / Better ask Bow Wow for the lottery ticket." Think of another rapper who's going to build punchlines around a 2010 Bow Wow movie and make it sound cool. That's a Redman thing. On "Let It Go," he compares himself to WWE Hall of Famer "Classy" Freddie Blassie and says the residue from his Backwoods blunts are "like teriyaki," and it works.
Watch Redman's "Dope Man" Video
The album's highlight is unsurprisingly the sng "Bars." It's an expertly-crafted set of rhymes that put those punchlines in full force. It starts off with "Like OJ, let me take a stab at it / Inhale like asthmatics / The chiropractor Redman, I'm back at it / My sawed-off by the bed, it's a craft-matic / The size of a Subway sandwich, ask Jared" and the fire keeps going from there. He says he's got bars all day, and few rappers can back that boast up quite like him.
The biggest problem with Mudface is its production. Most of the album sounds dated in the worst possible way. Redman shouts out Cam'ron on the album, which is fitting because the beats sound like they were made around the same time Dipset was on top. "Beastin' (MCA)" is a tribute to the Beastie Boys' late Adam Yauch, but it's hard to get past the track's awful beat. The referee whistle-sampling beat sounds more like a Swizz Beatz throwaway from 2003 than anything produced in the last decade. Reggie's bars can stand the test of time, but the beats he raps over desperately need an update. Some tracks sound fine enough, particularly "Bars" and the soulful "Won't Be Fiendin'," but when the bad beats hit, it distracts from the overall product.
Even with the production issues, Mudface is still worth checking out, at least for hardcore Redman fans. It's a brief listen that doesn't wear out its welcome, and he doesn't try to chase any kind of trends to stay relevant. This is 30 minutes of meticulously-crafted rhyme schemes, hilarious punchlines and lyrical onslaught. It's also just nice to hear from Noble again after five years since his last studio release. The album is a placeholder until Red releases his third Blackout! album with Method Man and his Muddy Waters sequel, but it's about as good as a placeholder album can get.
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