Saturday, November 8, 2014

Beware the Prince Of the South

Mystikal kinda came out like E-40 and The Click, in that they all had indie albums first, and then they signed to Jive who re-released them with bonus tracks. Except it Mystikal's album, they also retitled it, so Mystikal and Mind of Mystikal looked like two different albums, messing with consumers when really they were the same.

Anyway, "Beware" is Mystikal's third single, and second through Jive, and his best from that era. His pre-Jive single, "I'm Not That Nigga" came the closest. "Y'All Ain't Ready Yet" had Mystikal rhyming over a "Flavor In Ya Ear" knock-off track and forcing a lot of silly pop culture references into his verses: doing an impression of Urkel ("did I do thaaaat?") and making his most memorable rhyme the contrived pairing of "b-i-e-otch" and the children's clothing brand Osh Kosh B'Gosh. And "Out That Boot Camp Clicc" was his prerequisite weed carrier posse cut that had no business being a single.

"Beware" features some sort of dark but still pretty funky and catchy production by his regular producer in those days, Precise. It reminds me of something Rap-A-Lot would've put out in their post-Ready Red period. It's also the first single that was actually produced for Jive, as opposed to being taken off the original, indie version of the album.

And perhaps most importantly, Mystikal tones down the silly Fu-Shnickens shit I was talking about, shouting "damn, Gina!" like Martin or that goofy Michael Jackson impression. Instead, he uses his distinctive delivery, which is after all what makes Mystikal Mystikal, to turn really simple lines like "I'm hard as an armadillo" personal and great. It helps that this is ostensibly a diss record (apparently this song triggered UNLV's Mystikal diss, "Drag Em 'N' tha River," but everything in "Beware" is pretty generic and could apply to any ubiquitous you), so he's making more of an effort to come off fierce.

I mean there's still too many bad similes and pop culture references ("mild mannered like Clark Kent... evil like Cruella"), but at least those are all buried in his tongue-twisty style where they're hard to even make out, as opposed to the ones in "Y'all Ain't Ready" which he cuts the music out for and shouts or sings, effectively clearing the stage to swing a huge spotlight on 'em. He only did THAT once on "Beware," with his infamous Captain Caveman impression. Of course, that kind of song writing has aged terribly, but even at the time, "Y'all Ain't Ready" lost serious points for being corny. You could tell he was just a little too young yet to really have come into his own.

The B-side is "Here I Go" which is another decent album track and Jive exclusive. The track (also by Precise) is just more boring. That three note bassline starts out effective but winds up feeling plodding and redundant pretty fast. There's just not enough variation, so Mystikal almost feels like he's just freestyling over a quick loop rather than recording a proper song.

Overall though, it's a solid single, especially the A-side, thanks primarily to Mystikal's original and impassioned New-Orleans-to-the-nth-degree style. But it really feels like this is just the beginning to something greater than never quite happened. I believe if Mystikal had a top producer and a little career/ song-writing guidance, he could've been a respected hip-hop giant right alongside guys like Redman and Meth. And as it is, it's not like he's some forgotten nobody. He certainly has fans, a long string of albums to his name, and even a Grammy nomination (for Tarantula); but of course he went with No Limit, and I think he did a lot more for them and they did for him. And now he has to take sole responsibility for any troubles his career has had more recently (i.e. abusing women and going to prison for it).

Maybe his moment's still coming. He certainly wrote circles around Lil Wayne in his comeback video a couple years ago (but then again, even Paris Hilton has done that). I know I'm not alone in hoping that the penultimate Mystikal album is just around the corner. But, in the meantime, this 12" is a cool throw-back that at least comes in a sticker cover.

1 comment:

  1. Pretty much every Mystikal single is great, for the simple fact that he has some of the greatest acappellas of any rapper ever. This is no exaggeration. One could easily fall into the trap of thinking he's just a really skilled double/triple-time southern rapper with a funky voice were it not for the acappellas, which reveal just how much he's doing with each verse and hook. A truly underrated talent.