Rap / Hip-Hop
Artist: DJ Mista Smoke
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When I first heard DJ Mista Smoke’s story and his music, I felt inspired. Here’s a man who believed so much in his music and the positive message he could bring to the rap/hip-hop industry that he spent hours of every day pushing his CDs on NYC subway trains and on the streets. His tenacity and graduates degree in Public Administration gave him the ability to hustle his product in an effective and charismatic manner. His first album, Project Prince, received rave reviews. It’s positive message allowed listeners to truly believe that no matter how hard the times, greatness can be achieved with perseverance and strength.
Since that album, I have wondered what happened to that message. Sure, DJ Mista Smoke has never been a watered-down rap/hip-hop artist. He’s hardcore and doesn’t mince words. If you don’t like foul language and hard-hitting commentary, you’d better stay away from his music. However, his second album, Sentenced 4 Life, seemed just a bit too hardcore for my taste. The positive and motivational messages were few and far between on this album and my hope was that he would return to his original format in the future.
DJ Mista Smoke’s third album is entitled Only in Amerikkka. The title alone lead me to believe that this album might be lacking that positive influence altogether. The title is a reference made by boxing mogul Don King, “If you can’t make it in Amerikkka, you can’t make it anywhere.” While on the surface, Don King’s story may be inspiring as a man who turned his life around and became a very rich and powerful boxing promoter, if one looked further into Don King’s life, one might not find his story to be so inspiring. This particular quote and its intentional misspelling of the country’s name is a derogatory reference to this country as the land of the KKK. Not cool and not the sort of title that inspires people to greater things. But, despite the album title, I decided to keep an open mind about its content.
As in previous works, DJ Mista Smoke continues to murder other would-be competitors, but that’s okay with me because this is figurative murder and not real murder. As I said before, if you can’t get past hardcore rap/hip-hop world symbolic speech, you probably shouldn’t be listening to this music. The first few tracks just didn’t grab me lyrically. The music was, as always, on the spot, adrenaline pumping with awesome sampling, but the lyrics were lacking - of positive strength and catchiness. I actually cringed on the fourth track of the album, Aye Yi Yie. The hook of this track is actually the title of the song with a few more words that discuss the notion of getting paid before you die. Now, on one hand, I can see that a music hustler would like to get his career on the road and get paid before he dies trying. However, this is a track that can have a dual message for some folks who will take shortcuts on getting paid, hustling like street thugs. I’m sure that’s not the message DJ Mista Smoke is trying to put out there, but it will definitely become the anthem of many a gangbanger.
The album really started to get my attention in the later tracks where the music and the lyrics started to blend and become one. Driz, Nire, Riff Songs and new rapper Da June bring quite a bit of talent to this album. I especially commend the rapping talent of Da June who is only fifteen years old and whose excellent skills can only improve with experience. And then we get to Smell Like. The music track and beats are slamming, but the hook…well, I can’t repeat it here, but suffice it to say that I just found it tasteless.
As a whole, DJ Mista Smoke’s third solo album isn’t horrible. He has definitely gotten away from the more positive messages he used to peddle, most of the time relating success to material things rather than achievements. But just when you think this guy doesn’t get it, he hits you with a track like Love Song in which he praises the woman he is interested in. In this track, he discusses the hope for a sexual relationship in the future, but for now all he wants is for this woman to enrich his life by just being in it with all she has to offer. Nice job on that one!
Only in Amerikkka has many positive points that have helped DJ Mista Smoke sell hundreds of thousands of records over the years. He has an incredible ear for music arrangement - for what sounds good music and beat-wise…for what will keep the head bopping and the body moving. He has some definite rapping skill as well. The samplings are awesome and pertinent to the songs they’re placed in. That alone would be enough incentive to check out this, the third album in DJ Mista Smoke’s stockpile of music.