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Spank Rock

Everything is Boring & Everyone is a Fucking Liar

Rating: 2.8/5.0

Label: Bad Blood

Is 2011 the year of hip-hop’s wasted potential? At least for a certain generation it seems to be. Take the case of Lupe Fiasco and Naeem Juwan, both of whom made their debuts in 2006 and both of whom have released incredibly disappointing albums this year. For Lupe it was the crassly commercial Lasers, an album that functioned as the commercial antithesis of Food & Liquor, and for Juwan it’s the long awaited sophomore effort from Spank Rock, Everything is Boring & Everyone is a Fucking Liar.

The disappointment of Spank Rock’s follow-up to the game changing YoYoYoYoYo is admittedly complicated, a combination of the natural let down that happens when five years pass between albums and the frustration of an artist not living up to expectations. Lupe Fiasco wisely followed up his debut within a year, issuing the commercial and critical hit The Cool, an ambitious effort that did a far better job of juggling Lupe’s pop and underground instincts than Lasers does. But by taking five years to release Everything is Boring, Juwan has unnecessarily raised the stakes against himself, driving user expectations far higher than they need to be.

Despite those stakes, Everything is Boring is not a complete failure, despite what the hyperbolic backlash from critics who formerly labeled Juwan “one of the brightest young American talents” may lead you to believe. The album immediately teases listeners with “Ta Da,” a track that gives the false impression that the album will be a darker evolutionary step up from the debut. “Ta Da” has the skeletal structure of YoYoYoYoYo’s tensest moments and yet sounds completely different from anything Juwan has done before, with the emcee granting his lines the sound of an almost psychotic lullaby, his hushed tones and drawn-in breaths frightening rather than lustful.

The dip in quality begins immediately afterward, as the album starts to show off the lack of inspiration that often plagues it with “Nasty,” an LE1F produced number that may as well be a tribute to XXXChange’s more obviously danceable tracks from the debut. Juwan’s flow here is straight up party rap, more mindless than incendiary and completely stupid in lyrical content. It’s not that Juwan’s lyrics have ever been a highlight of any Spank Rock effort but “Nasty” is so anonymously profane and Juwan’s flow itself so nasally flat that it feels more like the work of some coked out frat boy than a former “brightest young American talents” title holder. Say it everybody: “We ain’t gotta be rich/ Bitch/ We ain’t gotta be God/ Dog.”

“Ta Da” and “Nasty” together form the two ends of the album’s spectrum, with the former representing adventurous departure from expectations and the other essentially a caricature of the Spank Rock “sound.” In between are great, light pop efforts like the Santigold collab “Car Song” and completely indie-fied efforts like early single “Energy,” which has an assist from the Death Set. Closer to “Ta Da” is the totally fucking bonkers “DTF DADT,” which has Spank Rock in full on futurist robo mode while PO PO’s Zeb Malik molests a drum machine in the background. On the other hand, there’s also “Nasty” wingman “Race Riot,” which proudly features the line “Shake it till my dick turn racist” and a beat that could have come from any number of Dipset pretenders.

Then there’s “The Dance,” an, ahem, dance track that starts off well enough and then explodes into a chorus that even Fatboy Slim would have probably rejected for being just a little too obvious. Pretty much the same could be said for its neighbor “#1 Hit,” except substitute the Black Eyed Peas for Fatboy Slim. Those two in particular also suggest that a lot of the album’s problems stem from the stifling Boys Noize production, which isn’t as exciting a fit for the emcee as XXXChange’s revolutionary work on YoYoYoYoYo was.

Had this all come, say, a year or two after YoYoYoYoYo it would have been merely disappointing, but with that five year gap it’s an album with moments of fun that ultimately feels depressing. That two of 2006’s most promising young geniuses have decided to use the five year mark to squander their potential doesn’t bode well for hip-hop at large. Juwan isn’t quite on the same reputation-bombing trip that Lupe Fiasco is– and certainly there’s more to love about Everything is Boring than Lasers and Fiasco’s subsequent public assholery– but Spank Rock also arguably did more to suggest a bright new future for the sound of hip-hop than Lupe ever did. Let’s just hope the follow-up comes in half the time and packs twice the punch.

by Nick Hanover

Key Tracks: DTF DADT, Car Song

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