Tuesday, November 14, 2017

TRU, "Tru 2 Da Game" (1997)

Percy Miller grew up in New Orleans' notorious Calliope Projects. After dropping his dream of a pro basketball career, Percy moved to California, where he studied business at a junior college in Oakland. Two deaths would change his life.

First was his grandfather, who passed as a result of medical malpractice. His wife received $10,000 from the hospital, and she bequeathed the money to her grandson. He would use this to open a record store, called No Limit Records, in 1988.

Then in 1990, his brother Kevin Miller was killed during a robbery. Percy turned No Limit into a record label, releasing his debut album (as Master P) in 1992. No Limit would go on to sell millions, make millions, and spend millions.

Tru 2 Da Game is not the most successful album in label history, but it's up there. Likewise, while it's not the ugliest NLR album cover, it is way the hell up there. Arguably, it's more useless than unpleasant. Why do the rapper names appear over each masked-up face? Those aren't even actual people, those are radioactive jack o' lanterns. That are on the verge of robbing Heaven, apparently.

"Intro"--Eavesdropping on ghetto homework with Master P and son Li'l Romeo. Over descending piano and gunshots on the four, the "ice cream man" teaches his child how to detect and deflect hoe-ass ways.

"No Limit Soldier"--Master P, calling himself the Colonel, provides a roster rundown. No questioning the man's accomplishments as a mogul; as a rapper? He's at least better than his brother Vyshonne, who commits vocal misdemeanors under the sobriquet Silkk the Shocker. He rhymes, more or less, but he couldn't keep on beat with Gorilla Glue. (He's also absolutely the type of MC who'd reference a quarterback with an 0-4 Super Bowl record.)

Guest Mia X ("first lady" of No Limit) is better than both men, easily.

"I Always Feel Like…."--Mia rejoins the guys to kick paranoia over a hi-hat-heavy instrumental. Mo B. Dick croons the Rockwell-inspired chorus. Silkk's frequently-clowned verse features the following:

"And I be seein' shit that ain't there/It ain't there, but I be seein' shit."

Which is fine if uttered in a psychiatrists office. In a vocal booth?

"There Dey Go"--Begins with P namedropping half of America, emitting a constipated battle call and wasting this time of mine. Silkk pops up to tell some buster that he's "more cheese than some cheddar."

"I Got Candy"--Starting a song with Silkk the Shocker is like starting a sentence with "I'm not a racist, but…." This Cameo interpolation veers way left right quick, thanks to an tuneless bass line and Sega Genesis sound effects.

"Ghetto Thang"--Big Ed is the guest speaker for this ode to self-preservation. The beat is smooth and Master P forgets to OD on ad-libs.

"FEDz"--C-Murder is the best rapper of the Miller Bros., which sounds like a backhanded compliment. Mia X provides the hook (why wasn't she the fourth member of TRU?) and Silkk is his standard shit self, reminding us he's "twisted like a Twizzler" with "mo' stakeouts than a Sizzler."

"What They Call Us?"--Master Percy laments advice unheeded. (Jay-Z's most recent album is his attempt to succeed where P failed.)

The drums are knuckles rapping on an exposed sternum while the keyboard attempts to mimic dramatic movie music.

"Smoking Green"--Get high, get through more than one minute.

"Gangstas Make the World"--Unsurprisingly features a wealth of gangster namedrops, including "Machine Gun" Kelly, a man who in reality never committed one murder, much less murder one. Most of the instrumentals on No Limit albums were cooked up by Beats By the Pound, a production team who treated music like McDonalds cooks treat burger patties.

"Swamp Nigga"--A Master P solo track. Ad-libs and accidental sounds add to the goofiness inherent in a song titled "Swamp Nigga."

"Ghetto Cheeze"--Silkk's flow, his syllable emphasis, his accent choices. You're a killer? Good. Kill me.

"Heaven 4 a Gangsta"--West Coast whine. On to disc 2.

"Tru 2 Da Game"--Remember beepers? Guest Mr. Serv-On injects some humanity into the project. Leave it to Silkk the Shocker to reference the greatest QB to never win a Super Bowl.

"Freak Hoes"--With Mia X on riposte duty, so the song's not misogynist! My fave, for sure. How can you freak to a beat made with a spoon and frozen aluminum foil? I look forward to finding out.

"Tru ?'s"--C-Murder in storytelling mode.

"1nce Upon a Time"--Everything about the track--low-riding synth, slasher strings, incidental thumps--tries much too hard.

"Pop Goes My 9"--Watery as British baked beans.

"It's My Time"--Mia X could beat up Adrian Peterson, and probably she should.

"Torcher Chamber"--Nice play on words (I'm assuming). Everything else is like I'm hanging out with Dirk from the Rutles.

"They Can't Stop Us!"--Percy, I never once doubted your business acumen, please stop yelling at me.

"The Lord Is Testin' Me"--C-Murder deals with the effects that criminal life has on his loved ones. Silkk the Shocker's flow is, within this context, God.

"Final Ride"--No Limit Records really is an inspiring rags to riches story.

Just don't feel you have to listen to the music for the tale to be considered complete.

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