Goodie Mob’s last album, 1999’s World Party, was a success for many reasons: interesting, musical beats; a lack of dull gangsta tropes (for the most part); a distinct world-party (what’s the word?) vibe; Cee-Lo Green the Soul Machine. None of these apply to One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show, the group’s fourth proper album. But since this is obviously a positive review (3.0 out of 5.0 = I liked it a little), let me point out that this album has something that’s missing from many non-mainstream rap albums — hooks. Lots of hooks, lots of crazy-catchy, sing-along hooks. For the most part, I’m willing to overlook a marginal album’s flaws if the choruses can lodge into my brain. Maybe you aren’t.
The aforementioned flaws, however, are immediately obvious. If the cover art is any indication, Cee-Lo may be the monkey of the album’s title, and although his leaving the Mob didn’t exactly stop the show, it did rob it of a sense of fun. One Monkey feels like a gangsta album; you can tell by the gangsta code of values it operates under (sluts, bad; emotions, bad; fags, or “fresh-and-fruity-take-it-up-the-booty-ass niggas,” definitely bad). But the musical consequence of this is a predictable song sequence. There’s the we’ve-got-a-new-album-out song (“We Back”), the plaintive pimpin’-ain’t-easy song (“God I Wanna Live”), the ode to dead homies (“Dead Homies”). Song structures formulaic, beats strictly four-four: there’s not a curveball among the sixteen songs, which is a shame — even the conservative half of Speakerboxxx/The Love Below had a couple nasty Zito-esque deuces.
Unless you count the provocative lyrical content in a couple of the songs. Take these lyrics from “Shawty Wanna Be A Gangsta”: “Assassinate your sons, take your oil and your land/ Understand that’s a gangsta/ Steal millions from the blue-collar children/ That’s a gangsta.” I originally had this pegged as anti-Bush invective, but the very next lyric, which sympathizes with Idi Amin (“Please believe this song/ That nigga won”) makes me think it’s simply anti-white folk. So does “High & Low,” which calls Colin Powell out as a “snitch” before threatening to take down the white empire and impregnate its flock. Clearly, the world party is off.
The amount of enjoyment you get out of One Monkey depends on what you value about hip-hop. Catchy hooks or lyricism per se? Formalism or experimentation? Righteous anger or racism? If you don’t mind the idea of having “One goodie two goodie three goodie four!” in your head for the next month, this may be the album for you.