Overall, 2012 was a good year for hip-hop releases. T.I. made a startling comeback with “Trouble Man: Heavy Is the Head,” Nas had the surprisingly fantastic “Life Is Good” and, of course, the man everyone is raving about, Kendrick Lamar shot to the limelight with “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City.”
It is a little disheartening then to see Chief Keef bring out the worst of the genre with his debut album “Finally Rich.” Lyrically weak and rhythmically challenged, Keef has done himself no favors with music critics anywhere.
The majority of rhymes on the album represent why rap is a genre that is so heavily criticized for being violent, misogynistic and encouraging of a drug-induced lifestyle. At times, it gets so ridiculous that it’s almost as if “Finally Rich” is a parody of stereotypical gangsta rap.
The perfect example of this would be the song “Hate Bein’ Sober,” which features 50 Cent and Wiz Khalifa. Part of the chorus reads: “When we roll up bitches be on us/So the hoes that love smoking and love drinking/Anti-sober for no reason/Cause we can’t spell ‘sober.’”
It is important to keep in mind that Keef’s fan-base is not one that consists of people who are hoping to find some profound message in his lyrics; the tracks on “Finally Rich” are more hip-pop than hip-hop, only there to entertain and sound good with a catchy beat, and here is where the problem lies – Keef does not fully accomplish that either.
The songs on the album are all so similar sounding from start to finish that they start getting annoying and lose significant replay value. Khalifa is an example of an artist who is just as bad content wise, but he manages to make every song so different sounding that it is much easier to overlook his lack of lyrical prowess. This is the main flaw of the album. It does not manage to be a fun album you can bump in the car or at a party. It simply gets monotonous too quickly.
There are only two factors that save “Finally Rich” from being the worst hip-hop album of 2012. First, there is the fact that you cannot deny that the music is mostly strong even though there is no lyrical substance to back it up. “I Don’t Like,” “No Tomorrow,” “Kay Kay” and “Laughin’ to the Bank” are all songs that feature fresh sounding production, with beats that boom with the right amount of bass.
It comes as no surprise then that Kanye West, one of the most original and inventive producers in the industry today, chose to remix “I Don’t Like,” though his edit ended up being better than Keef’s original.
Secondly, as borderline idiotic as some of the lyrical content is, Keef becomes pretty endearing by the end of the album. After 15 tracks of hearing him brag about his recently acquired riches and fame, one can’t help but feel happy for him. His confidence is consistently sky high, and that’s something that nobody can take away from him at these early stages of his career.
It’ll be interesting to see whether Keef chooses to do something different on his sophomore effort than he has with “Finally Rich.” The potential is there, but he needs drastic improvement lyrically.
Ayush Kumar can be reached at email@example.com.