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I ROCK. I ROLL.

Right off, with no corny intro, Mystikal announces his mission on "Ready To Rumble", the first track off his fourth major release, Let's Get Ready. A growler somewhere in between Busta Rhymes and DMX, the New Orleans rapper veers slightly closer to James Brown than to a Reggae Toaster. He isn't the Godfather, but he promises an old fashioned party. He also threatens and prays, but lacks DMX's mysterious contradictions, though he delivers some good raps. He rocks and rolls.

After "Ready To Rumble" comes "Shake Ya Ass", the single, making mix tapes all over America. The Neptunes produced this and "Danger", another gem. Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo lay down something slinky falsetto sing-song over the bridge as the rapper hisses his delivery:

SHAKE YA ASS
WATCH YA SELF

It's the message of the album. While you might shake your ass more than watch yourself, isn't that what music is supposed to make you do? This is entertainment damn it! To hell with fear, this is fun.

With "Danger", Mystikal sounds his most James Brown, with his grunts and exhortations to "Get on the floor!" The Smoky funk underneath, entwined with the very Sinead O'Conner sounding vocal, might be a little wiry to do the camel walk on, but Mystikal and the Nepunes manage. It's a fevered slow groove. The Neptunes do fall down with the static "Jump" and "Family". The Asian sounding sonic prickles don't work, and while a wiggly bass part might sneak its way in, it comes and goes and these songs don't really go anywhere. The Atari noises and backup vocal by Latrelle help pull down what is already a very earnest tribute to local roots on "Family". The idea that these roots is threatening comes off as a reach, as if Mystikal, AKA Michael Ernest Tyler, probably a nice guy, feels as though he feels forced in the bad role.

The Medicine Men's different producers win glory for half of their four offerrings here. "Big Truck Boys"is about something different, and the bass is psychadelic, bouncing the same way Jay Z's "Can I Get A..." bounced. On "I Rock, I Roll" a saxaphone blows like a boiling kettle, the way Public Enemy's Bomb Squad did. This, the horns on Radiohead's National Anthem bode for more saxaphones in the mix this year (Damn it! This is Hip Hop album. I do not want to hear another thing about Radiohead. Why don't you go listen to Radiohead and quit trying to review Rap records). "U Would If U Could" features a rapid fire style delivery that's becoming the Heavy Metal guitar solo of Rap; it's very flashy but hard to make soulful. The times Mystikal slows it down are the most effective.

FROM THE MOMENT THAT I SLID IN THE DOOR [Creak]
THE KNOW I'M BACK CAUSE YOU CAN FEEL IT IN THE FLOOR

A noble boast, but then he sputters along in a very talented and showy way, till you realize that mostly, throughout this record, Mystikal's songs are bragging, saying he's better than some undefined listener. While it's good to be self confident, the braggadocio featured here can run thin and become an annoying quality. Mystikal would do well to be more self-deprecating on his next album.

"Murderer III" is a departure from the norm. Unfortunately, its horns and shotgun shots are too shrill and jarring to maintain such a redundant groove. Our rapper explores the emotions of a killing: the guilt, the impotence, and the revenge in a far more emotive effort than most rappers attempt, but the track implodes. On "Murderer III", the protagonist shouts out "Thou Shalt Not Kill!" Again, the good and bad do not play off each other well. A preachiness clings as well to "Family" and "Ain't Gonna See Tomorrow". Preaching is hard in Gospel, and this is dancy Hip Hop. You want to be righteous , not self righteous.

Warning: there are also some swear words! Check out "Mystikal Fever"

BIG TITTED BITCHES GET THE
BIG TITTED BITCHES GET THE
MYSTIKAL FEVER!

So there is a balance.

Mystikal pays tribute to braids on the dumb "Braids", to weed on "Smoked Out" and to his neck of the woods on "Neck Uv The Woods", all produced by Earthtone III. They give "The Braids" some weak production, while "Smoked Out" get a nice shafty aroma. Both are really stupid songs. The album closes with Outcast entering Mystikal's "Neck Uv Da Woods", but all their weirdness doesn't jibe with a chorus that doesn't really sing like it wants to. With "Come and see about me", Da Brat unimpresses on her guest rap, but Jive Records Label mate Petey Pablo makes you forget that this is a fairly typical challenge rap. Pablo gets a nice plug from Mystikal on the three mini-teasers at the end, The second and third bring back the dance and spark up the Rock and Roll.

Let's Get Ready Rocks and Rolls. It has some holes, but nothing too egregious, and it shakes up a dance floor beyond its hit single. Put it in your party.

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