Guilty Simpson Guilty SimpsonOJ Simpson
“OJ Simpson” is based on a conceptual error. The most correct and appropriate thing, having listened to and assimilated it, would have been for the album to have been released as Madlib featuring Guilty Simpson. If a lot was expected of this album it was precisely because it implied the return of the MC from Detroit after that interesting “Ode to the Ghetto” from which the head of a promising rapper peeped out, as yet unpolished and immature, who seemed predestined to fit in perfectly with the smoked funk beats of Madlib and the sound of the city of his birth, via Black Milk or Dilla himself. The idea of a project made with Madlib, without outside interferences, was, back then, an attractive and striking proposition confirming the good positive suspicions around his career. This was coupled with another interesting collaboration: the thing was heard, ex- Lootpack member, “Stoney Jackson” from Strong Arm Steady , who he himself produced some months ago. In reality, the recording was to be more of a testing ground for the producer, an exhibition, and almost more a chance to show off the wide array of samples, beats, and loops that he has in his closet, than a real confirmation of a new cat with hunger and ambition to be an indie star. It is more an album of beats than a standard rap album. But a bland album of beats, without too much shine.
The record speaks for itself: of the 24 songs included in “OJ Simpson”, half of them, no less than 12 are interludes or skits. And the other 12 are orthodox, short flares, the vast majority of which don’t last longer than three minutes. Although the resource of the skit is out of fashion, and personally I find it annoying and bothersome, it is indubitable that when a solid conceptual shell is behind its use, it can add substance to the sum of the content. Remember “De La Soul Is Dead”, “Supreme Clientele”, “Niggaz4life”, “Whut? The Album” and “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” to mention a few excellent examples, wher the interlude complemented a high-grade musical contribution with ingenuity and humour. Here, though, there is no plot to excuse and no clear concept for so much gratuitous interruption. Would it work as a producer’s instrumental album? This is as it may be, but it’s this context we’re talking about. Pass me the complaint form, please. The thing is that it almost seems like all of these skits act as the backbone, the main theme, and that Guilty Simpson appears with his rhymes once in awhile, like someone passing by who puts in a few phrases for fun, when it should be the opposite. Sound WTF.
So without understanding or getting the hang of the instrumental concept, we are left to enjoy a dozen brief, fleeting songs. And here there is everything: impressive outbursts– “New Heights”, “Scratch Warning” (with Frank-n-Dank), “Hood Sentence”, or “Mic Check 313” which just about justify a comfortable passing grade, and can calm the wild beasts who feel somewhat disconcerted after having paid for moments without much shine and pure turkey stuffing to fill out the track list. From the outset, Guilty Simpson came across as a solid street rapper to me, and in central tracks on the album the rhymer once again offers a notable demonstration of skills with the pen and the mic, giving wings to those who consider him one of the great revelations of the recent underground. But the coitus interruptus caused by the avalanche of interludes hindering the listener and the artist, as he appears and disappears without a trace, as if set back and absorbed by the more nebulous, dispersed side of the lot.
This is why, despite the rapper’s sparks of talent, the album leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth. If we are looking for someone to blame, I’m sure the album’s marked problems are down to Madlib’s mental, sonic and conceptual confusions, having mistakenly been selected to put the finishing touches to the project. This is neither the place, nor the moment, nor the ideal companion to uncover his thicker, more dizzying catalogue. And at many points along the way, you have the feeling that “OJ Simpson” is nothing more than a poorly-disguised effort, blander, duller -let’s say a B-movie effort- to cook up a new “Madvillainy”. It’s a pity that Simpson isn’t MF Doom and this Madlib isn’t what he was then. David Broc* Listen and buy here