Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Next Eminem ...Circa 1999

Back in the 90's, Paradime's manager told me this guy was "the next Eminem." Now, over the years, you'd probably be hard pressed to find a white rapper with an even passing interest in his lyrics who hasn't been promoted at some point as the next Eminem. Except Dose One; he's always been a galaxy or two removed from what the rest of the hip-hop scene was doing. But Paradime's next Eminemness is a bit stronger than Chris Webby, Mac Miller, or this woman. Paradime was also coming out in the 90s, from Detroit, working with many of the same people and was sincerely being marketed by the same guys who put Eminem out there as an almost official Eminem #2.

Of course, it's unfair to lay any artist so much in another's shadow, and being forced to compete directly with the most explosive star of his day is pretty damn rough. But at the same time, most of us who picked up his record were probably doing so exactly because of the explicitly drawn Eminem connections, so at the end of the day, it probably still helped more than it hindered. So, let's take a look at Paradime's debut record - the 12" that really sailed with its "next Eminem" colors the highest.

The good news is that while he might've been the next Eminem through his circumstances, connections, etc; he's not a Dasit.  He doesn't rap like an Eminem clone, he doesn't have an indistinguishable voice and cadence like Asher Roth, and he's not a hacky joke machine like Hot Karl.  So go ahead and take your fingers out of your ears. He's not going for Eminem's fast talking acerbic style - although his punchlines are clearly aping Em. But Paradime has a much deeper, gruffer delivery. You'd never think maybe you were listening to an Eminem record at the start of one of his songs. He's closer to somebody like Vinnie Paz, really.

So this is the lead (and only) single for his debut album, Paragraphs, on his own label, Beats At Will. This single however, "Paragraphs (Remix)" is on Federation Records, the same label Bizarre was on before Interscope entered the picture. And we've actually got two remixes of "Paragraphs" here (plus an Instrumental and Acapella). The first is produced by Hush, of Da Ruckus, another Federation Records group that also recorded with Em; and it's the clear winner. It's a really well produced track that makes the song work. Honestly, lyrically, it's way too reliant on corny punchlines. But the beat makes it work, you'll be into the whole thing. Once you hear the next version, though, the Stank Breff Mix produced by Paradime himself, all the faults rise to the surface. And it's not that the production is bad - it's not as good as Hush's moody beat, but it's passable enough. It's just not one of those beats that can raise an average collection of verses to another level. I guess it's always nice to have an exclusive vinyl track (Hush's remix was included on the album); but honestly they should've probably just left it off.

Flip it over, and you've got another album cut called "Ain't Gonna Stop." And this... is some shitty club shit. The beat (also by Hush) sucks and the hook is worse. Dime's flow is alright over the beat - A for effort - but you're never going to listen to this crap a second time. Oh and lucky us, the Instrumental version is on here, too.

But the last track completely redeems... everything. It's a posse cut called "Clash Of the Titans," (also on the album), featuring a couple of his and Eminem's Dirty Dozen compatriots (Paradime went on to record multiple times with D12, though never Em himself), Bizarre and Bugz. It's produced by DJ AMF, regular producer for Federation Records label-mate S.U.N., who also kicks things off with a cool and calm opening verse. And Bizarre is at his best here in a small dose, taking battle raps to the extreme. It's Invincible who steals the show, though, with a flow that puts the rest to shame nad even makes some questionable lines sound incredibly dope. "Clash Of the Titans" is her fucking record. And it all rounds out with some hyper ad-libing by Bugz, who unfortunately doesn't actually spit any bars.

Unfortunately, that leaves Paradime out in the cold with the least memorable appearance. If a shorter edit of this song were released without his part, I'm not sure how many fans of this song would even notice. Roll that up with the rest of the 12" and you're left with a 12" that's absolutely worth having on the strength of "Clash of the Titans" and a good chunk of the production, but doesn't really leave you wanting to follow the rest of Paradime's career. It's kind of too bad, because he seemed like a decent artist; but he just never quite manages to grab you. And that particular failing is what truly and crucially separated him from Enimem.

Interestingly, though, Paradime pressed on over the years. And while he did continue to record with D12 (plus Royce da 5'9, Obie Trice, King Gordy and probably any other past associate of Em's that you can name) as I mentioned earlier, and most of his online fanbase seems to live in Eminem message board communities, he did persevere in forging his own non-Eminem related persona and putting out music on the underground level. Check him out still going strong in 2013. But according to his wikipedia, he's best known for "do[ing] the turntables and back up vocals for Kid Rock." Still, that's not a bad way to earn a living, even if he's not rolling in Super Bowl money. Things seem to have worked out about right for everybody.

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