Brick Squad - Brick Squad Mafia (1017 Brick Squad/So Icey Ent., 2011)
If there’s ever been a problem with Young Jeezy’s U.S.D.A. outlet, it’s the fact that none of the rappers involved, sans Jeezy, are polarizing figures in their own right. Blood Raw came close to fascinating at times due to his hoarse voice, but he certainly wasn’t bringing anything more than that to the table. Slick Pulla is often credited by CTE-Stans as the second coming of Jeezy - however, Slick has always been little more than a Southern rapper who wants to be a low-tier New York rapper, his style more remiscent of someone like Maino or Red Cafe than any of his peers. Boo and 211? It’s hard to even make a case for them - they are essentially just shells of rappers that don’t really exist.
Young Jeezy’s recent CTE Or Nothing tape was full of big hooks and bigger beats, but it was still lacking in variety and sheer entertainment value. This is the same thing Jeezy’s projects have been lacking since TOD2, which received heavy mixed criticism itself (I myself thought it was fantastic). CTE or Nothing is certainly better than 1000 Grams and Last Laugh, and could’ve been something special as a TM103 prcuersor if it didn’t feature his collection of dull weed carriers. Jeezy himself can hardly save his own career these days, having had it wrecked by Gucci and Ross indirectly; now is certainly not the time to be putting on the rest of the crew. CTE Or Nothing is full of almost identical bangers, the mood and quality of each song resting on Jeezy’s laurels alone.
I say this now because Brick Squad is so superior as a collective, and on their very first official release, at a time where people’re claiming their leader is falling to his horrific drug addiction, they release a project that shits all over their direct competition and makes a case for Brick Squad being one of the best collectives overall in hip-hop today. While Jeezy’s crew is full of bland trappers with little to no personality, even the bottom of the totem-pole rappers present in Brick Squad are captivating figures. YG Hootie (who released the rather uneven Fonk Love tape a few days ago) shows that with the proper grooming he can find his way up the ranks of Brick Squad quite quickly if he keeps improving. The other lower members (Papa Smurf, Ice Burgundy) are slightly indistinguishable, but they never detract from the project. Frenchie is still solid as always, providing a strictly New York approach to everything he touches. Slim Dunkin is quickly becoming one of the stronger, more consistent members of Brick Squad, and his sporadic appearances here are all great. Wooh Da Kid absolutely spazzes on everywhere he appears, raising the energy to a level that only Waka could top. Waka, who, aside from Gucci (who handles most of the hooks), acts as chorus man for the most part, only appearing on about half the tape, but certainly going in wherever he appears. Unfortunately, OJ is nowhere to be found, and his stupid fruity swag is missing.
Gucci still hasn’t returned to prime-form, but he’s not quite as disoriented as he was on his recent solo outing, Gucci 2 Times (which certainly isn’t one of Gucci’s best projects, but I still don’t think it’s nearly as flawed as others have made it out to be). His hook-writing abilities have certainly have returned, as Transformers reminisces to the line of forgotten cartoon-influenced songs he was creating in 08/09 (Nickelodeon/Super Hero mainly). Elsewhere he’s crooning on the strip club joint Immature, with the help of some autotune, while adding his somber croak to the almost remorseful Gangbangin’. His verses still make him appear disinterested at times, especially when he shares the same space with someone like Wooh as he does on We Takin’ Bricks. However, he absolutely destroys his verse on Immature, takes Fly Away back to his EA Sportscenter days, and bounces in and out of Mouth Full of Gold with the nimble flow he’s become known for by his admirers.
The beat selection, hanlded by Lex Luger and Southside mostly, is surprisingly varied. Gang Bangin’ is a melancholic track that finds the Brick Squad boys recounting their days on the block, but unlike the menacing synths found on heat-rocks like Everything Bricksquad, this beat is drenched in regret. Fuck Ya Talkin’ ‘Bout is very celebratory; reminiscent of DJ Toomp’s better works, and features Waka’s shining moment on the mixtape. Pole is a strip club anthem that will cause more precipation in the joints than Travis Porter (pause), and Immature sounds like it absolutely needs to dominate the radio waves in South and Mid-West.
What could’ve easily been a thrown-together, rushed project full of DGB-leaks from the past couple months ended up being something far more than I think most of us were expecting. While Brick Squad may never get the proper attention they deserve as a group, their ability to continually put out quality music for their core fanbase is what keeps those same fans so loyal, and it’s the reason Gucci’s name is still buzzing in 2011 while Jeezy can’t even get his record label to give TM103 a solid release date.