Ruffhouse Records, 2012
Review by Kent Manthie
Despite his being sentenced to two years in federal prison for tax evasion in mid-July, that still hasn’t stopped legendary Philly rapper, Beanie Sigel, from putting out This Time, a little something to keep his fans happy and sated while they await his release (sooner than 2 years, if he’s lucky and he behaves himself while inside) from the pen. Well, now, at least, Beanie will have some “street cred” from his stint behind bars, even though it’s only for tax evasion, not murder or pimping or selling/possessing drugs. Of course, that is really stupid thinking – going to prison is not cool or hip, nor does it give anyone any kind of “credibility” – and being in a gang is only for losers who have no individuality and are usually highly uneducated, ergo, they are easy prey for the life of group-think, brainwashed to do the “boss’s” bidding. But, everyone knows that so…
At the same time, Ruffhouse Records has been reborn under the new, watchful eye of its new CEO, Chris Schwartz. “We’re extremely proud to be re-launching Ruffhouse Records with Beanie Sigel as our first artist,” exclaims Schwartz, a co-founding partner of the legendary label, also from Philly. Schwartz also says “His [Sigel’s] sentencing today [July 12, 2012] doesn’t change any of that in the least…” – change any of what isn’t spelled out, but one assumes he’s referring to the resurrected label’s undying support for long-time Philadelphia legend, Sigel.
Beanie Sigel, ne Dwight Grant, got his start back in the late 1990s when he was signed to Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records. For a while he made guest appearances on Jay-Z songs as well as on “Adrenaline!” by The Roots, but he finally got his big chance when, in 2000 “Beans” released The Truth, which featured contributions from Jay-Z, Memphis Bleek, Eve as well as Scarface.
The Truth was quickly followed up with The Reason, in 2001, which had a hit with the single, “Beanie (Mack Bitch)”. A year later saw the release of his film debut, State Property, which is how Sigel was introduced to what would become his backing band, also called State Property, which featured “Freeway”, “Young Chris”, “Neef Buck”, “Peedi Crakk”, Omillio Sparks and “Oschino”.
It wasn’t long after that when Sigel followed in the footsteps of Jay-Z, Sean “Puffy” Combs, etc. and started his own record label (also called State Property) and a clothing line. These days it’s not enough for a hip-hop/rapper to have success a music act, they have to expand and put their names on jeans, shirts, jackets, shoes, etc. and having your own label is another great revenue stream. For today’s hip-hop artists, it’s not just about the music or the lyrics, the style or whatnot, it’s really about making as much money as possible and they don’t shy away from this over-the-top greed at all, but are proud of it and show it off as much as possible. For many, though, it’s a dream come true, especially for those who’ve really come from poor roots – growing up in the projects in the inner cities of Philly, New York, L.A., Chicago, Dallas, etc., because if you’ve grown up in abject poverty, never knowing where you’re next meal is going to come from and your neighborhood is not only a ghetto-slum but a virtual war-zone to boot, those with talent who are lucky enough to make something of themselves and who don’t end up selling drugs then ending up dead or in prison, but have a gift for writing snappy lyrics, dope rhymes and killer beats will eventually get noticed by other hip-hop impresarios who’ve usually been there themselves and get lifted up into fame and fortune – so when you’re in that position: of virtual rags to riches, it’s no wonder that you want to celebrate and spend some of that bread on a big house, great, fast cars and expensive jewelry. What a way to celebrate your new status as someone whose finally made it and come up from the mean streets of the city and now can live like a king!
Anyway, as far as the new material goes, “Beans” is still at it, with the dope beats and the slick rhymes and his heart & soul poured into it all. The songs on it are mostly street-inspired little ditties and there’s plenty of name dropping all over it (Beyonce, Lauryn Hill, etc.). “Kush Dreaming” is an aptly named song that has a melodic, trance-like vibe over jazzy, instrumental jams (Kush is a kind of super-good weed). Also inspiring is “That’s All I Know”, which features pop-star Akon on backing vocals. On the title track Beanie stands like someone looking out over a vista and reflects back on the ups & downs of his wild and crazy career. “Sigel is What They Call Me” he delivers one of his best vocal performances as he honors the late Notorious B.I.G. and on “Dangerous”, which features another guest appearance, this one by “Game”, Sigel seems to, according to some, channel the “spirit” of Tupac Shakur, while at the same time giving us vivid examples of the ghetto street life amidst which he was raised.
If you’d like to check out Beanie performing some of his new tunes before he’s locked up for two years, check out his upcoming performances on both Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, on NBC and also on BET’s 106th & Park.
But just you wait; Beanie will be back after his short stay in the Federal system and will be ready to really bust a groove! -KM