Itís always interesting to hear artists make blatant references to their inspirations with their music. Especially when it comes to hip-hop. Listening to rappers take a lyric here, an album name there makes for an interesting experience. Kanye West
does this pretty well at times. Actually, itís a common tactic for young, unproven rappers to employ. Thatís not to say that Kanye is unproven. Heís far from it. Still, this isnít about Kanye at all. Itís about J.R. Writer. As interesting as it may sound, I can draw a fair bit of comparison between Writer and West. Well, for one thing, bother of their surnames begin with ďw." Both of them also have extremely big egos. As lyricists go, the two are also similar. Theyíve both been hailed for consistently spitting better-than-average wordplay. The similarities end there. You see in terms of actual music, Kanye and J.R. are polar opposites. However, J.R. still manages to employ many of the aforementioned strategies and concurrence with Kanye on his major-label debut, History in the Making
. However, he doesnít quite pull it off as flawlessly as his completely dissimilar counterpart.
Itís really interesting, actually. Very few rappers manage to outfox themselves so well on their own albums. J.R. would probably be better off without the meddling of his ďcrew," Harlem-based rap group, Dipset. Comprised of artists signed to Diplomat Records, Dipset is the brainchild of J.R.ís mentor, CamíRon
. Since itís initial inception as an out for displeased Roc-A-Fella Records artists, Diplomat has slowly been gaining success, churning out hit after hit. Itís kind of funny, though, that the groupís most successful member, Juelz Santana
, is stranded on Def Jam island, unable to escape the ďRocís" grasp. Enter J.R. Writer. Heís been under the tutelage of CamíRon since he broke into the Harlem hip-hop scene. Due to this influence, and his commitment to his crew, youíd expect History in the Making
to feature plenty of Dipset. Well, youíre right. And this is precisely why you could say that J.R.ís wit outruns his talent: not only due his references to his idols, lyrical samplings, Dipset guest-list, and Kanye West comparatives make History in the Making
and interesting listen, they also make you wonder ďWhy should
I listen to this guy? He seems soÖlame compared to everything heĎs going on about." When all is said and done, you wonít really find yourself with an answer to that question. J.R. just falls flat on his face all throughout the album.
History in the Making
is ridiculously bloated, as well. Nineteen tracks clocking in at a whopping 72:53 is more than intimidating for the average hip-hop fan. You see, this is the type of album that draws success off of the popularity of one or two songs. Unfortunately for J.R. there really isnít anything here to redeem History in the Making
. All of the songs sound virtually identical. Basically J.R. tries to sound like a gangsta-rapper, while coming across as pop chart seeker. You could essentially equate his music to 50 Cent
ís, only with slightly better lyrics/delivery/music. Stress the slightly to the point of fracture, and youíll have it. Self-indulgent bits of filler like ďOn the Block" are neither amusing nor warranted in the context of the album. Pulling-out-your-hair-in-frustration fare such as ďHigh Music" will make you want to turn the album off right then and there. Thatís assuming you can make it that far into this swollen ego-trip of an album, as ďHigh Music" comes up about 56 minutes in. Another late-inning flop is ĎThatís A Bet" which curiously features Lily-white Houston rap sensation, Paul Wall
. Then again, perhaps it isnít so curious, as Wall manages to drive his hooks into just about every major rap album thatís released. ďThatís A Bet" is only notable because itís the only time on the whole album where J.R. isnít outperformed by a guest (because letís face it: Paul Wall flat out sucks).
On the whole beginning of the album, however, we hear J.R. working in cahoots with his pals from Dipset. On overly ambitious tracks like ďBack Wit It," ďGoonies," ďByrd Call," and ďPay Homage," J.R. get plenty of dippy support, which overshadows his performance like a solar eclipse. As for every other song on History in the Making
, they are either carbon-copies of the Dipset tracks or simply unmentionable attempts at J.R. to do something on his own. J.R. is a relatively talented lyricist, Iíll give him that. Some of the rhymes he manages to eek out are intelligent and display a certain sardonic nature that carries a certain degree of charm. Itís unfortunate that History in the Making
should turn out this way, as J.R. does have a reasonable amount of talent. The only problem is that itís buried below a layer of shi
t a Dipset and a half deep.
Youíre going to feel cheated after listening to History in the Making
(assuming you want to get entirely through this sub-par behemoth). Itís like getting half an album, really. Thereís minor bit of glory where you agonizingly hear J.R.ís frustrating potential break through. However, in the sea of his ďall-star" cast coupled with the galaxy-sized bits of redundancy, these moments are few and far between. History in the Making
is actually an apt title for this album. Since no artist has ever managed to make themselves sound less pleasing as opposed to their inspirations, J.R. Writer has forever etched his name into the annals of hip-hop history. Safely assume that Dipset held the hammer and chisel for him.