Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz : Crunk Juice
The first man of crunk lays down the blueprint… or does he?...
What does ‘crunk’ tell us about where we’re at now? If we’re going to look to the most populist sub-genre of the most populist music around for some small reflection of What’s Going On, then crunk must surely be the place to start looking. More than any other hip-hop genre in the last ten years, it shamelessly combines all the things that we secretly look for in hip-hop and, indeed, pop (volume, anti-social values, punk attitude) with all the stuff we don’t (gaudy chain-jangling posturing, rudimentary lyricism, gratuitous guest slots, terrible sleeves). And it is GIGANTIC. Every ‘what’s hot in 2005’ list worth paid lip-service to the fact that this year we will have our spoonful of crunk. It’s already decided.
So ‘Crunk Juice’ is probably to be the first internationally-consumed statement of crunk, created by the man widely dubbed The Godfather Of Crunk. As a result, one would hope for it to be a definitive, genre-defining album, a high watermark for others to aim for. Which screams “CRUNK!!!” with unanswerable force and stamps it on our bedazzled crania. Oh well. In reality, all it does is flatly mutter “crunk” very unconvincingly. There’s very few whistles and bells and a desperate lack of consistency.
To recap for the umpteenth time plus one, crunk is a newish hip-hop style taking its name from a combination of the words ‘crazy’ and ‘drunk’, these being the ideal conditions in which to appreciate the music. It is typified by a shouty, hectoring vocal style that always kicks up a notch when it’s time for the chorus to create uncomplicated, bombastic club-friendly tracks. The videos are all flout, flaunt and flesh, full of dollar bills tossed hither and thither, diamond-encrusted goblets worth more than Luxembourg’s GDP (yeah, goblets – we don’t know either) and loads of girls. With all this razzle-dazzlin’ the music is often relegated into second place. For example, however good Usher’s ‘Yeah’ may be, it doesn’t sound like it took weeks to churn out. Even so, when crunk delivers, it’s hard not to get carried along by adrenalised mania. But only when it delivers.
‘Crunk Juice’ is not one of those times; the music here is so secondary it could sue for neglect. It’s almost laughably one-note, devoid of nuance, stunted of vocabulary and aeons too long (20 tracks, plus another 10 on a remix CD, plus a DVD). Rhythm arrangements are flimsy, musical adventurousness more or less absent and its hyper-profane, coked-up rants wearing. Nobody’s that mad! Calm down, have a cuppa.
There are some exceptions –‘Real Nigga Roll Call’ is agreeably vast and contains some well-deployed bad language, while the rock-tinged ‘White Meat’ packs an air of creeping menace and a fantastic shout-along chorus that next track ‘Don’t Fuck Wit Me’ then takes to a deafening all-out heavy-metal-with-added-Tourette’s extreme. ‘Aww Skeet Skeet’is a genuinely stylish call-and-response and the rump-shaking P-Funk of ‘Stick That Thang Out (Skeezer)’ provides a shot of subtlety that would provide welcome variety were it not buried in the seldom-coveted ‘Track 19’ slot.
But these highlights get lost in the crunk-by-the-manual mire. So what does crunk tell us? Ultimately that people will listen to the man who hollers loudest. Don’t know about you, but we were hoping for more than that.