The specter of Outkast looms large over Da Backwudz’s debut, Wood Work. Big Marc and Sho Nuff sound enough like Dungeon Family members that combining their flows with Organized Noise (and Organized Noise-like) production creates an inevitable and unfortunate comparison with early ‘Kast. There are definitely tracks on Wood Work that rise to the occasion, but with such big shoes to fill, it’s difficult to call this ultimately uneven record a success.
Maybe the best song here is the second single, “I Don’t Like the Look of It (Oompa),” which turns the Willy Wonka classic into a genuinely creepy and intimidating beat that has a great clip to its strut. The opener walks the intro/theme line well and comes off as the best Outkast impersonation, and Killer Mike’s guest appearance on “Getting 2 It” continues his winning streak. But the second half of the record sees a dip in overall quality, and the mostly generic rhymes of the two featured rappers can’t carry it. The slower songs, such as “I’ll Do” and “Feelin’ Lonely,” are uniformly disappointing, particularly when they emphasize the emcees’ weaker lyrics (“wet like the Mississippi river”).
There aren’t a lot of Southern rappers that you listen to for lyrics, but when it’s clear that the members of Da Backwudz are striving for that effect, it’s hard to forgive them when the necessary impact isn’t felt. Wood Work shows promise, undoubtedly, but the record can’t surpass its influences, and when it is so similar to its predecessors, it’s hard not to hope that next time they’ll step their game up or come with something a little more original. Still, it’s not a bad record, and in this era of weak music you could do a whole lot worse than to throw this on and get into the Southern groove.