Perpetually trying to shake off his history as the Beasties’ DJ, Hurricane has made several concerted efforts to establish himself as a legitimate hip-hop producer. Thus far he’s been unsuccessful, and I hold out no hopes that ‘Don’t Sleep’ will buck the trend.
With this release, he has followed the Muggs Soul Assassins model, creating beats for his collaborators that reflect, or are inspired by, their classic styles. Thus ‘Keep It Real’, featuring Faith Evans, is a poor imitation of a poppy Puffy number; ‘Freeze The Frame’ with Public Enemy is a sub-par Bomb Squad impersonation; and the worst offender, ‘Blow It Up’, is by-the-numbers Dre. But where Muggs is enough of an artist in his own right to be able to pay tribute to those he admires without losing his own identity – even when he’s doing RZA, it’s still Muggs doing RZA – Hurricane just doesn’t have the gravitas, the consistency, to pull that off, and his beats have nothing at their heart to prevent them from seeming nothing more than shoddy reproductions.
For sure, Hurricane has assembled a fine cast of collaborators here – from old-schoolers Chuck D and G Rap to new(er) stars including Talib Kweli, Xzibit and Pharoahe Monch – but sadly, for the most part, these are among the worst examples of those fine artists’ work. Indeed, the final paradox is that as hard as Hurricane tries to establish an identity of his own, untainted by the Beasties’ association, the most effective, fresh and cohesive track on this collection is ‘Kickin’ Wicked Rhymes’, featuring none other than Adrock of the aforementioned nasal white rappers.
Oh well, guess it seemed like a good idea at the time.