Dice is another rapper from Detroit, and kind of underrated at that. He's far from the greatest rapper out there, but he's still pretty good. This album, however, is pretty sad, because it fails to showcase a credible rapper by presenting Dice's mostly solid gangsta rhymes over mostly average beats. It's like Eminem
's little talked about first album, Infinite
, which came out the same year. Granted, Dice is not as good as Eminem, and the beats here are not as good as those on Infinite
, despite the occasional memorable element to the production, but Theneighborhood***talka
still produces some fine moments from a rapper that should have gotten more mainstream attention than he did, but unfortunately, fell off the face of the Earth due to being screwed over by this album's producer and label.
The sound of piano plinkings and a hamburger sizzling on a grill ("Rainz It Pourz") isn't exactly the greatest way to start off an album. Dice has some excellent gangsta themed raps mixed with bits of social commentary ("my little baby sister's prostitutin'"), but this is mostly bogged down by its downright pitiful production. A better beat would have made this a classic. The next track, however, "The Life Dat I Live", is a really great track. There's a nice funk bassline and piano running throughout it. The lyrics, on the surface, appear to be an average dirty rap, but actually comment on the futility of skirt-chasing and constant devotion to self-hatred. It's like a less insightful rap equivalent of Nine Inch Nails
' "Closer". It's still awesome, though.
"Gettin' High" is another great track. The music sounds like Lee Perry-esque dub reggae. The commentary on Detroit's crack scene and alcoholism is effectively poignant. "They ***ed Up" recalls Ice-T
's "Midnight" and Cypress Hill
's "Locotes" in its claustrophobic and nightmarish gangsta revenge narrative. "Welcome2mygeto" combines a horror movie score, African drums, and Middle Eastern vocalization for a high level of effectiveness, for the most part, although the random recording of what sounds like a kid banging on a drum set he has no idea how to play at certain points in this track is unneeded and pointless.
Dice explores straight-up funk on "Funny How People Change" and "Growing Up As A Kid", with mixed results. "Growing Up" has more insightful social commentary, while "Funny" has a better beat, although the lyrics of "Funny" aren't bad
, they're just not as good as "Growing Up". Then there are some absolutely awful tracks, like "Whatitbelike". The chorus is annoying, and the booming bass doesn't help matters, either. "Poemz" is another awful track, with misplaced samples, terrible keyboard strikes, and horrendous lyricism.
Dice does bounce back, however, most notably with "Behind Bars". For whatever its flaws, Dice's Theneighborhood***talka
is an interesting look at what could have been in a Detroit hip hop scene that was not driven by guys in face paint, rap-rockers and Eminem. That doesn't mean it's a classic, though. Eminem has made significantly better albums than this, both in terms of lyricism and production. In fact, the muddy, low-quality production is the main problem with this album. The mixing on the beats and vocals is very amateurish, like a bootleg. In fact, Dice sued the label that put this out because they didn't pay him very much even though the album sold quite well.
In this retrospect, Theneighborhood***talka
has something in common with underground rappers like Canibus
and Kool Keith
-- talented rappers who are undermined by bad production and worse business deals with shifty labels. Granted, it's quite obvious that Dice is not nearly in the same league as Canibus or Kool Keith. But on his own merits, Dice is a quite good gangsta rapper who should have gotten the attention he deserved. His flow and lyricism is better than 50 Cent
's; it's in the same range of shock value, but it's contrasted by more insightfulness and social commentary.