Light Up the Bomb
8 Ways Entertainment
n his old age 8 Ball has retreated to his local comforts: Orange Mound, Tennessee and hectares of sticky purple chronic. Any plans for flirting with the world above ground (i.e. following up on the success of “Stay Fly”) seem indefinitely shelved. He’s not even paranoid about his provincialism like he used to be. 8 Ball is at relative peace.
On Light Up the Bomb, a cobbled-together Memphis posse picnic, 8 Ball hovers like a contended uncle. He’s only here to sing hooks and take the last verse of each song. Newcomers Montana Trax, Devius, and Gu1ta Mac don’t do anything special, but they’re competent enough in their line breaks and references (three dozens ways of describing weed and drank). Each has a round and foggy voice, yet a fairly uncluttered delivery. Bomb is both business conference and family affair—there’s a palpable, genial interplay between all the young MC’s but there is nothing totally warm either. It proceeds along with requisite energy. A few needling skits here, a few skittering, plosive hits (“Time2hitdaclub” chief among them) there.
8 Ball, even with his sparse spotlight time, continues to cultivate his career-twilight style by waltzing through pipe flute spirals (“Battle Field”) and gumming up bars of latch-breaking thump. The two songs where ‘Ball does team up with MJG go down like easy, updated nostalgia trips to their halcyon days (1993’s Comin’ Out Hard, 1995’s On Top of the World) and the first-person, scenic, thug reportage it entailed: “We out the trap, the sun comin’ up / Ain’t nobody on the streets but the junkies and us.” 8 Ball straddles the line between saccharine and true: “I write about dreams that crumble like cornbread.”
The best parallel for 8 Ball and Bomb is UGK’s sloppy star Pimp C and this summer’s dripping, snapping ensemble of an album, Pimpalation. But where the South Texas veteran surrounds himself with mile-long block parties and communal sneer sessions, 8 Ball’s Memphis is a claustrophobic berg. There’s no real joy, no unblemished skies.
Though he likes to put himself in odd company—“born the same day as John Lennon”—he’s a neighborhood guy, the best kind of minor poet, intense and earnest with a narrow lens. That doesn’t make it better than Pimpalation (it’s a toss up), it makes it resigned, smaller, and clarified. Amid the youngsters and their moments of amateurism, he’s the right kind of touchstone.