People who like unthreatening hip-hop are going to love Hard Twelve. Using the jazzy, spaced-out rhythms of the French hip-hop scene he hooked up with on visits to Paris from his ATL base, Beat Assailant rhymes over horns and slight hiccup beats. It’s hard to find faults with Hard Twelve, but, like BA’s rhymes, it leaves you with hardly a memory, even after repeated listens. And it’s ultimately forgettable: too slick to dislike, too safe to be remembered.
Nearly the whole album goes down smoothly, perhaps to a fault. But the kick-off single, “Hard Twelve — The Ante,” is awesome: all handclaps, a funky bass line, and some bouncing keys. Beat Assailant’s casual delivery and vocal cadences prove you don’t have to be shot in the face to cannily replicate 50 Cent’s flow, but his beat and lyrical selection is the opposite of the G-Unit emcee: Think “In da Lounge.”
Like 50, BA isn’t very strong on lyrical content, and he uses his voice more as an instrument than a tool. Sure, “B 4 Prez!” has a nice enough message and some good points, and “The Most Real” is old-school fun in that new-school way. But no one wants to hear “I Like Cash” from the millionth emcee (side note: doesn’t the journey from “Straight Outta Compton” to “Straight Outta Cashville” sum up everything gone wrong with hip-hop in one clever word change?). And when the beat fails, BA can’t keep a song afloat; once you get to “Technology,” the album’s consistent groove is ruined with a modem-based beat that becomes more grating than anything else.
There are some good jazz choices on Hard Twelve. The eight-minute-long “The Secret Weapon” uses up most of its time on instrumentals, and there isn’t a dull moment on the track. But adequate emcees are a dime a dozen, and jazzy hip-hop records seem destined for the Norah Jones crowd of the future. This isn’t a bad record, and most people who listen to it will probably like it. But no one needs Hard Twelve. I can’t even remember it and I just reviewed it.