So, has Jay-Z ruined everybody’s career at Def Jam? Probably not, considering he isn’t really calling the shots (L.A. Reid, anybody?), just like he isn’t the actual owner of the Nets (that’s Bruce Ratner; Jay-Z owns about smidgen of the team). No matter how much influence S. Carter actually has, the media likes to overplay the misconception that Jay-Z has turned Def Jam — the label Ghostface once called “the Yankees of hip-hop” — into the Washington Nationals of the music industry.
Most of the old-guard Def Jam rappers like Redman, Noreaga, and Method Man are more upset that the real power-wielders of the late-’90s empire, Lyor Cohen and Kevin Liles, have moved on to other companies. That, combined with the fact not one of them has made anything noteworthy since that time, should be reason enough for the lack of hype around their recent releases.
As sad as it sounds, those rappers’ best days are probably behind them. But like a former champion boxer still fighting after his heyday, Redman is getting in a few more rounds. And in what may be his final attempts at glory, Reggie Noble proves to be more Oscar De La Hoya than Roy Jones Jr. Red Gone Wild delivers everything I want from a Redman album: witty punch lines, a few lyrical gems, and overall good humored hip-hop.
For the past few years, Redman has been hyping his “Gilla House” partners, but they’re pretty much your run-of-the-mill junior varsity rap crew. Red saves most tracks with metaphors relating to popular culture and verses that Don Imus would never get away with. From “Pimp Nutz”: “My motion real slow when I start to bust/ and I get the party bubblin’ like Alka Seltzer Plus/ You niggas smoke dust if my flow ain’t tight/ ’cause I’m tight like a Jewish wife.”
Redman shines best on tracks like “Bak in da Buildin,” “Put it Down,” and “Gilla House Check.” For better or for worse, a lot of his high-profile appearances are awful, including lackluster beats by Timbaland and Scott Storch and flaccid verses from Method Man and Snoop Dogg, which would have been better replaced with a few more Soopaman Luva skits. (Red has always had the uncanny ability for making interludes that are actually entertaining.)
Red Gone Wild serves its purpose, reminding us that Redman can still be a lyrical beast at times, but it probably won’t get enough buzz to convince the new-school heads they should buy it, and Redman probably will never again see the acclaim of his 1992 debut, Whut? Thee Album. But with his own label and continued endeavors outside of hip-hop, he probably is just happy knowing he can always dish out a quality hip-hop album on the side. Even if Jay-Z or L.A. might disagree.
“Put It Down” video: http://www.prefixmag.com/blog/redman-put-it-down-video/4071