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Mixtape Review: Kool John – $hmopcity

September 5th, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments


Mixtape Review of Kool John – $hmopcity, courtesy of Skinny Friedman

Three diverse decades into rap, haters of all stripes love to harp on the genre’s lack of content. Hip-hop fans know this claim doesn’t hold any weight, but it also doesnt have to. Rap started as party music, guys saying cool-sounding shit over funk breaks at the local function. You don’t have to say anything if you can make nothing sound good (word to Mims!). With that said, Kool John’s $hmopcity rarely leaves the party (and only then to roll one and feel some butts), but still manages to impress.

This is mostly because of the excellent production, handled largely by IAMSU!, P-Lo and other members of The Invasion. The crew is part of the same wave of Cali beatmakers as League of Starz and, of course, DJ Mustard – with no disrespect intended, P-Lo might be best known for producing “Act Right” for Yo Gotti. Fans of DJ Mustard will want to check for tracks like “TBT” and “Chain Swang”. “Quit Cattin” is here too and it still bangs.

The real highlights of $hmop are when The Invasion look beyond the trademark sound of California in 2014. IAMSU!’s beat for “Wobble”, with its horns and hi-hats, is a pitch-perfect Mannie Fresh impression. With Freshley Snipes few and far between these days, it’s a hell of a track. “Bad Ass Bitch”, another IAMSU! production, splits the difference between Mannie Fresh and the Bay Area’s mob sound from the 90’s. The bassline on Kuya Beat’s “Nothing” definitely has some mob influence. Jay Ant laces “Smoked Out” with a solid Three Six Mafia homage and the result is another standout track. (The high quality nods to late 90’s/early 2000’s southern rap also include Chopper City-inspired artwork.)

But $hmopcity is Kool John’s party, literally: the tape allegedly takes its name from the parties John used to threw at his mom’s house. John makes a great host, with a confident flow and a voice not unlike Bay Area legend B-Legit. He stunts hard (“Bitch I Look Good”, “Did That”) and hollers at the chicks (“TBT”, “Wobble”). The vibe is light and shit only really gets tough on “Bang Bang”. Like any good Yay album, the guest spots are plentiful. As expected, HBK Gang is all over $hmop. The awesomely-named Dave Steezy steals the spotlight from the likes of Sage the Gemini and IAMSU! on “Nothing” and “Chain Swang”. And Taylor Gang’s ubiquitous Berner shines on the pleasantly druggy “Laying Low In The Cut”.

As stated before, Kool John is not the most compelling lyricist. He carries his weight, but could use a little more personality or wit. And at 20 tracks, the next project could use some editing. But on the whole $hmopcity is a fun, well-constructed effort that does exactly what it needs to do and does it well.

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