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Remember 2004? Mannie Fresh’s ‘The Mind Of…’

I did one of these before, talking about Slum Village’s 2004 release ‘Detroit Deli’. I guess my uh, “thesis” which even only I buy like 25% of, is that 2004 was a really good year for rap music but rap fans are insatiable pricks and in light of rap being supposedly terrible in 2007, I’m saying they should have maybe given a shit about these good and interesting releases of 2004 and supported them. I guess in a way, it’s my own moronic version of nostalgia…

While ‘Detroit Deli’ in my opinion, defined the loose crossover possibilities of the “conscious” set and in effect, the general feeling I was getting from rap in 2004, ‘The Mind Of…’ seems to be an album that for those paying attention, hinted at some of the shit that is currently going on. If you are okay with rap now you’ll probably like this album. If all you talk about are Cassidy mixtapes, Saigon, and how rap sucks in 2007, you won’t like this album.

As some kind of predictor of rap in 2007 ‘The Mind Of…’ seems nearly prophetic. You get Lil Wayne on four tracks, including two solo performances that are presented as Wayne hi-jacking the album (‘Wayne’s Takeover 1 & 2’). This is the same year ‘The Carter’ came out and is the era that most seem to perceive as the beginning of Wayne becoming the “rapper-eater” he is today. There is also the actually sort of prophetic ‘Mayor Song’ in which Mannie calls-out the poor governing of his beloved New Orleans a year before Katrina hit. Then of course, there’s Mannie’s production which is an example of and influence on the Southern rap style everybody likes to hate so damned much…

On ‘The Mind Of..’ the production seems a little more ambitious. ‘Intro’ doesn’t lack any of the Mannie Fresh bounce but it also contains a super-clean acoustic guitar and some really great, precise soul horns and wah-ed out bass and guitar. All of the songs have live instrumentation and real, solid playing on them, but Mannie seems a little more okay with letting that sound really stray from conventions of Southern rap. The playing pops-out a little more on ‘Intro’ and this helps adjust your ear to the mid-album songs which are as much some weird new form of soul as they are rap. ‘Nothing Compares to Love’ has this strange extended chorus that feels as much like ‘Another Brick In the Wall’ as Southern chant-rap.

A few tracks later, you get ‘Not Tonight’ more of an actual soul song than a rap song that also works as a soul parody because Mannie croons stuff like “is you out yo motherfuckin’ mind/Pagin’ me, putting 69/We don’t do that shit”. It works because Mannie’s got the chops to make it actually sound like a Freddie Jackson song and not some lazy parody. Then, after that, he gives you ‘The DJ’ sort of like Mannie’s own version of ‘Terminator X Speaks With His Hands’ and follows it up with a definitive Mannie Fresh production ‘Real Big’. And then…he goes into a particularly hilarious skit, the first of two labeled ‘Great Moments in the Ghetto’ a ‘Chappelle’s Show’ rip-off, complete with sincere delivery of said “great moment”, acoustic guitar strumming, and some harmonizing that signifies/parodies “down-home”. It’s tough to explain, but it’s really this sincere love and understanding of a genre or style, with the love so deep that you’re totally safe laughing your ass off at it. The Pharcyde do that on ‘Bizarre Ride II’ where the guys are likely to break into a parody of Louis Armstrong’s singing or toss in some half-sincere Thelonious Monk-ish piano vamps…

‘Mayor’s Song’ is a brief but effective track that imagines Fresh confronting the politicians that aren’t doing dick to aid his hometown. Mannie travels up the tiers of corruption, starting with the Mayor who blows him off, moving onto the Governor whose aide won’t even let Mannie ask a question and then, we get a quick snapshot of the President who is more concerned with playing golf. It sounds like it comes from experience; it’s more than generalized political anger. If one has ever tried to call even a local politician, what Mannie experiences on the track is exactly what happens, as the complaint is given to an intern and then the responsibility is shirked and passed-on to some other department. He also addresses the way that one’s wealth is used to downplay one’s political passions especially in the black community. When he questions the Governor’s Aide on taxes and the response is “you sound like you think white people are the only people getting by”.

It is the only political song on the album and while that makes one think of it as less sincere a concession to politics, I think it’s just realistic, especially on an album called ‘The Mind Of…Mannie Fresh’. My mind is certainly occupied by political thoughts and concerns but really, my brain spends way more time thinking about banging girls or trying to bang girls; that is why we get more songs like ‘Pussy Power’ and less like ‘Mayor Song’. At the same time, that shouldn’t downplay the significance of ‘Mayor Song’.

The production here is the main appeal, well that and the humor (every skit on the album is funny), and the only reason I spent more time on the ideas than the fucking great production is because a Southern rap album being taken seriously is still a problem. The production is what you’d expect but does seem a little more elastic and fun without losing the BPMs or the aggression. ‘Pussy Power’ jumps from typical bounce to interpolating the ‘Ghostbusters’ theme, and subtly changes up about ten other times throughout. ‘Tell It Like It Is’ has this weird breakdown with this high-pitched scatting and beat-boxing in lieu of an actual chorus and then falls right back into Mannie’s Rudy Ray Moore-esque story of cheating. Of course, Mannie is like the best Southern producers in that he never gets too lost in his own mind and never strays too far from what is expected, so the stranger details are complimented by conventionally “ignorant” beats like ‘Real Big’ and ‘Day In The Life (Cadillac Doors)’.

Written by Brandon

August 6th, 2007 at 6:17 pm

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