History in the Making
ipset. n. An occasionally charismatic band of reliable, gully b-list rappers all emulating—in numbing, double-dutch rap style—one guy (Cam’ron, the slightly loony godfather) and presumably thanking God everyday that they happen to inhabit a coveted spot on the hip-hop map (Harlem).
After a few years of their odd combination of parading (frankly Southern-inspired), conspicuous consumption and a solemn Manhattan vs. outsiders manifesto, even the most casual of rap fans has a solid group shakedown: Cam’ron is the daddy. Juelz Santana shows some intermittent sparks of quirky energy. Duke has the verbal habits of a cut-rate Beanie Sigel. Jim Jones continues to split time with Memphis Bleek as New York’s premiere coattail rider.
And then there’s JR Writer who, to the uninitiated, doesn’t seem to carry anything particularly special at all. Worse still, he’s got the insufferable habit of using the Dipset signature flow—monotonous, arithmetic meter that cramps diction. He raps, “I’m hard as fuck, the targets ducks / You ain’t spitting hard enough / Listen here mami, tsunami couldn’t wash me up” and hits each short “u” sound on the common second beats—“fuck,” “ducks,” “enough,” “tsunami,” and finally “up.” Now that’s not quite end rhyme and certainly not the always poorly defined “internal rhyme.” No, it’s simply a bloodless numbers game where Writer just finds any old word that has the short “u” sound in it. Or, to be more precise, it’s a cribbed version of Cam’ron’s haphazard, doubling-back flow. Writer runs though each long and short vowel like a bored schoolboy, slavish devoting himself to mimicry.
History in the Making has as much rote hustling talk as any record this year, and even the best of it shows precious little invention: pots are shuffled, cops are summoned, and Writer still has no personality to call his own. The Dipset woodwork overtakes him: “Juelz got signed and you knew Jimmy was next.”
It doesn’t help that the beats are standard Koch-level East Coast synth and brimstone. Monosyllabic chants—usually “Dipset” or “’Set!” repeated at break-neck, Three 6-hi-hat rates—commonly make up an entire chorus (“Take Notes,” “Back Wit It”). The royal, self-important horn backdrafts on “Byrd Call” are great, but the song’s producer, Develop, takes a backseat on History to make way for more worn and ragged metronomic work from Doe Boyz and Knoxville (the pair combine for almost half of the album’s tracks).
One can excuse the blogger’s rub-down of Cam’s sour, overrated Purple Haze. But even while disregarding the fact that Dipset would be struggling for any buzz were they centered, say, in rural Mississippi, JR Writer’s mass-produced debut can’t really do anything for anyone: himself, his clique, nor the sliver of privileged space they all call home.