This is the second review in the back-to-back-to-back review bonanza. The first was Big KRIT’s joint, Live from the Underground. See the previous post for the review and information about some changes and why I haven’t reviewed for a while. The last of the back-to-back-to-back reviews is the Killer Mike and El-P collaboration, R.A.P. Music.
David Banner seems to have had enough. It’s come to a point where even artists like him are struggling to survive in an ever-changing industry that they once dominated just a mere few years ago. So what’s his response? The 2M1 movement, where you get to download his new album for “free” provided you pay at least one dollar. This is to help artists realize that their content doesn’t have to be controlled by industry standards. Quite a message from a man known for songs like “Like A Pimp” and “9MM”. But in the end, the effort is half-convincing.
Banner knows that his name isn’t much of a big deal these days, which explains the multitude of guest appearances on his album from Big KRIT to ASAP Rocky and Snoop Dogg to Chris Brown. That’s the first contradiction: why does David Banner need big names in his music to prove that urban music is still profitable? Isn’t an industry standard to have big names on your record to garner attention? Another contradiction surfaces when Banner’s album starts to sound overly mainstream for all its underground ambitions. But the biggest contradiction about the mixtape is that it tends to preach what it doesn’t practice. For example: the skit “Mothers and Sisters” features a voice that questions David Banner on whether he would accept if his mother or sister was called a “b*tch” by someone else. Yet on the subsequent track, Banner and Brown sing about having a night with their “sex slaves”.
The real ironic moment comes in the “Swag” remix, when Kardinal Offishall spits:
Most of the rappers I know they’re intelligent/
But they would never bless you with a lesson/
They would rather feed you to b*tches, drugs and guns/
Like f**king clowns/
They ain’t concerned with your block cause they in the ‘burbs now/
Those aren’t directed just at Lil Wayne, who is interestingly another guest on the mixtape. Banner himself has much to identify with these bars, as he has several songs that feature such content. It’s almost as if Kardinal wrote those bars with Banner in mind.
Apart from all the discrepancies, Sex, Drugs, and Video Games is still a somewhat entertaining if inconsistent effort. The multitude of rappers makes David Banner look more like DJ Khaled than an actual rapper. Most times, his guests sound more on point than him, like Don Trip and his excellent verses on “Do Work” (“I’m just tryin’ to stay as fly as a king/ You know dope boys don’t get retirement plans”). Even Chris Brown, for all the atrocities he has brought upon the ears of mankind, hands in a half-decent verse that almost bests David Banner’s more generic verse on the “Yao Ming” remix. Of course, Banner’s real talents are production and hooks. And while it isn’t as remarkable as it has been before, it suffices for the most part.
But Banner keeps coming back with the enlightenment talk with no actual evidence that he is following his own gospels. The impression comes off as confused: what is David Banner’s point? Is he conscious or is he trap? Is it preachy or is it personal? Ultimately these thoughts keep David Banner from being taken seriously as an artist and reformer. The concept he is trying to change is the very same concept he is musically indulged in. And as an entertainer, he has made only a decent record and not one that is all that memorable.