The Sound of Revenge
ust when the magical summer of the Texas dynasty looked to ride off into a sunset of everyone drinking out of Styrofoam cups and cramming diamonds into mouths, cars and scattered piece of jewelry, this guy comes along.
He says he used to be friends with Paul Wall and Mike Jones. He’s angry about them and about the fact that Houston got as profitable as Atlanta while he wasn’t looking. He’s on Universal see, and he’s not doing any of that Screwed & Chopped stuff anymore.
His voice is pretty good too. Snapping hard on the line breaks, knowing just when to get silent on a threat, giddy on a taunt. He even sings his own hook well, trying to make himself the grandfather of the song, taking care of every little thing (see: 50 Cent, Q-Tip). He’s extra stubborn about repeated knocks against Houston’s lyrical skill (yeah, we all know the strong points of Mike Jones have little in common with KRS-One’s), and does a pretty good job of hacking away at the stereotype, (“I'm sticking the middle finger up like the feeling's mutual baby” is a perfect signifier of his quiet wit).
But mostly he’s angry. He turns a docile Scott Storch mid-range lounge clap, “Turn It Up,” into the down-beat, moody little hiccup that should, never, ever be the first single. Radio channels that play “gimmick rappers” get hijacked, people who ignore him are heretics, and all the standard under-appreciated rapper themes come through clearly. In the mind of Chamillionaire, he’s already won the public over.
The beats are suitably big-budget: slinky, anonymous string and snare combos. He plays it safe. Comparison is can be a bitch, but it’s Cham’s bad luck when everyone from Lil’ Wayne to El-P is trying their hand at instrumentals not normally associated with their expected style. Chamillionaire gets shown up in 2005.
The Sound of Revenge does have that homogenized mediocrity that makes book critics throw their hands up in arms about an Iowa M.F.A. kid writing about Eastern Europe. You know what’s coming before the next page. As angry at the protagonist gets, you know the sappy religious part (“Void In My Life”) is right around the corner.
It’s fine if he wants to rain on the parade, and with a title like this you certainly expect it. But if the threats and saber-rattling are going to be effective, Chamillionaire has to take his burnished, easy flow and start putting some specifics in it. Call out names; reference specific points in a personal history. When rappers go abstract on their complaints they sounds like Shyne. Cham will talk all day about fake rappers and even raid a radio station (the oddly effective “Radio Interruption”) but just can’t throw the gloves down on this record.
Revenge is nothing if not a profoundly out of place record; too firm and staid for Swisha House and our expectations of “Houston sound,” too bluster-free and modest for full-scale New York self-beatification.
There’s a moment during the suitably concussive “In the Trunk” where in the middle of bile he says, “I'll rip any gimmick rapper out from A to Z / 934-829 to the 2 if you still disagree.” Fair enough, but in the middle of such presumably astute revenge it’s probably not a good idea to use someone else’s gimmick. Then you just look petty.
Reviewed by: Evan McGarvey
Reviewed on: 2005-12-15