Review Summary: real buck
It's fair to say that in many circles these days hip hop is becoming increasingly intellectualised, and that's totally fine, but there is something so compelling and visceral about the utter lack of pretension in the way the likes of Triple Six Mafia recite their lines depicting murder, getting high, and murdering people whilst also getting high.
There are probably some people reading this thinking dismissively to themselves that "Underground" sounds like a classic hip-hop buzzword stapled to a release in order to throw together a few crappy b-sides as means for a quick money grab, but it is actually a really good name for this compilation in several ways. On the surface it describes the relative obscurity of the songs, but it also reflects the morbid imagery found in both the downright obscene lyrical content and the clandestine production, and most of all it elucidates the dingy, dimly lit feeling pervading the entire release, as if the listener were hearing it deep in some basement from beyond a dense cloud of weed smoke, one so thick it obscures and distorts the sound. Moreover, "Bitch I don't fu
ck around // I'll put your ass underground" may not have featured the eponym intentionally but it is still the perfect line to epitomize the lyrical content on this set of songs.
The tracks on this compilation were exhumed from the group's various early mix-tapes as well as their much rawer first album Smoked Out, Loced Out
, reappearing here re-cut with a more calculated, cold-blooded production that demonstrate DJ Paul and Juicy J's genuine talent at finding hooks in straightforward, ethereally eerie looped samples and restrained but galvanizing drum machine beats. Proof of this is the fact that some of the songs contain no verses at all but are merely simple, sinister analogue loops and rough vocal cuts grafted together and threaded up using a healthy dose of repetition with an expertise that deceptively seems to lack any intricacy. One of the best examples of this has to be second track "Niggas Ain't Baring Dat", where several drawled vocal cuts interweave and overlap over a tastefully aggressive drum beat and foreboding, spacey scales, a song that clocks in at over six minutes but through intelligent, measured application of each simple sample does not feel that length at all. Another song in this style is the at first bewildering "Sucks on Dick", in which the only two lines are literally just "Sucks on dick, does it real good" and "Get buck mothefu
cker, get buck", but doesn't drag at all for the three minutes it lasts because it draws the listener into the same aggressively perverse daze as the rest of the album.
Elsewhere, the production on "Playa Hataz" contributes heavily to it being one of the best songs Triple Six have ever done, where the commanding hi-hat driven drum beat featuring some fantastic snare placement serves as groundwork for sparse sinister twinkles, otherworldly trilling voices, and malevolent droning brass. A lamenting female croon superbly accentuates the echoed verses in "Mask and da Glock", and "Where Da Bud At" opens with an extravagant piano flourish that juxtaposes the cacophonous, almost siren like loop and an insatiable voice incessantly asking the question: where da bud at?
While DJ Paul and Juicy J perform most of the rapping, there are also plenty of verses from old Triple Six mainstays, especially Lord Infamous, but also Koopsta Knicca, Gangsta Boo and Project Pat. While only just over half of the songs have proper verses, there are plenty of stand out performances and memorable lines that keep the listener coming back for more. Lord Infamous and Koopsta Knicca both have some of the best verses on Triple Six favourite "Now I'm High, Really High"; lazily telling tales of dark, weed induced psychosis and incoherently boasting of bizarre, compulsive behaviour over a chorus of deep, distorted laughter. Gangsta Boo has a characteristically audacious verse on "Playa Hataz", her patently combative rapping style fitting in perfectly with the obviously derisive message of the song itself.
It's important when it comes to a group like Triple Six Mafia to be able to distinguish between lyrical craftsmanship and lyrical content, because while Triple Six often completely scorn any semblance of real narrative in favour of incoherent anecdotes, their imagery, rhyming patterns, and raw instinct when it comes to knowing what about their sound appeals to the listener, while far from being intellectually driven, are some of the best.