Review Summary: Murky gangster rap that actually sounds like it.
I’ve always been a dog person. I have never really been fond of cats, ever since I was young. I saw Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, and saw that absolutely insane Cheshire Cat and decided felines weren’t for me. Hairballs? Scratched-up furniture? Superiority complex? No, thank you, I much prefer the easy going nature of dogs. But, recently, I discovered a real cool cat, and he’s no prissy kitty. Alley cat Phat Kat is killer, and with fellow 313-er J Dilla, he sinks his claws into the rap game with Carte Blanche
J Dilla does not sound like his usual self though due to Phat Kat’s persona. Phat Kat’s voice resembles a grittier Saigon with a bare bones gangsta rap approach, hitting you with raps through a monstrous delivery. Phat Kat, rather than appealing to the lowest common denominator, stays true to himself throughout the record, continuing aggressive gangsta raps with a nasally voice and a suffocating flow.
Thusly, Phat Kat forces J Dilla to adjust his work. Rather than hopeful, soulful grooves or jazzy, mellow jams, Dilla prefers ugly, murky electronic atmospheres that fit Phat Kat’s gangster-isms much better. From the fuzzy, haunted house synths “Nasty Ain’t It?”, Dilla completely adjusts his sound, and expects his influenced crew of producers to do the same. Only Black Milk, on “Cash Em Out,” washes down his own style with this dark atmosphere, mixing budging electronics through militant drums, midget soul, and grooving bass.
The best tracks of the albums easily come from Dilla productions. As the warbling drone of “Don’t Nobody Care About Us” and the buzzing graveyard synths and rumbling keys of “Cold Steel” will tell us, that’s where Phat Kat sounds truly natural, perfectly displaying his vulgarity. However, occasionally the underlings get their chances to shine. The backwards shuffle and layered violins via Nick Speed create a brooding atmosphere on “Vessels” for Phat Kat to rip to, while Black Milk’s marching pianos of “Hard Enuff” create a minimalistic vibe reminiscent of the 90s, but in way of ‘tribute’.
Flaws do appear, but that is mostly in the form of Phat Kat’s rapping. Phat Kat’s delivery and voice definitely fit the music, but when paired up with other MCs or singers, he gets easily outshined. “Vessels” features an oddly aspiring performance from the former Dr. Dre singer Truth Hurts, while “Nightmare” continually proves that Guilty Simpson is one of the most powerful gangster rappers out there, with his ground, deep drawl luring the listener into his wise street words. Admittedly, it’s hard to compete, but Phat Kat doesn’t keep up with his guests, which is painful.
However, despite a somewhat lost host, the vibe of Carte Blanche
is all it’s really about. The mixture between Phat Kat’s barking (or better yet, purring) and Dilla’s grumbling production is what makes Carte Blanche
such a good rap album. Phat Kat is a street cat in the purest sense, and for once, someone makes it seem like this would be at all true. Even alley cats need friends.