These days, the word “classic” is thrown around as loosely as a Nerf ball at a picnic. However, we at TRU consider classics to be something which stand the test of time and have a resounding influence on their respective fields. But how do albums considered classics sound to the ears of TRU’s young blood? Aaron J. McKrell was born in 1990 and we’ve convinced him to turn his scope on a classic from the rich history of hip-hop to view it through a contemporary lens in a weekly series we call…
The year is 1991, and hip-hop is facing a full onslaught of criticism and attempted censorship for its curse words, coarse topics and in-your-face realism. The Geto Boys, one of southern rap’s pioneers, release We Can’t Be Stopped, their response to the attempted censorship and criticism of their music. Well, I checked out the album as number 10 in this series. A penny for my thoughts? How kind of you to oblige.
We Can’t Be Stopped displays some of the most extreme unbridled anger I have ever heard on wax. So unbridled, in fact, that the Geto Boys resort to screaming over minimalistic beats on several tracks. These songs are rough to listen to, and the style puts a damper on their powerful lyrics. After the intro and the title track- which betrays their rage against censorship and criticism- the next few tracks sound generically violent. While “Another N****r in the Morgue” and “Homie Don’t Play That” may have been shocking in ’91, they fail to stick out by contemporary standards.
Fortunately, the album has its fair share of solid cuts. “My Mind Playin’ Tricks on Me” lives up to all the hype as one of the eeriest hip-hop cuts ever created, and is a stone-cold classic. The beat is the perfect backdrop for the group’s tales of fear and paranoia. Scarface, Willie D, and Bushwick Bill mesh seamlessly together on this track. In fact, this song makes me wish they did more group tracks and less solo ones. Each member recorded three solo tracks for the album, and after hearing what they are when they’re together, they sometimes sound sorely lacking apart. This isn’t always the case, though. Willie D shines on “I’m Not a Gentleman,” which is an extra-dope song about the double standard of females declaring equality and then wanting to be treated as superior to men. Of course, Willie is heavy on the misogyny, which is guiltily hilarious. Scarface also goes hard on “Gotta Let Ya Nuts Hang,” and Bushwick dope smoothness.
Even with their brash tales of raunchy sex, graphic violence and outright hatred toward the government, they manage to slip in intellectual truths a la Ice Cube or Public Enemy. “Fuck a War” by Bushwick Bill could use some style and sound tailoring, but Bill’s words are undeniable:
“‘Cause two suckers can’t agree on something, a thousand motherfuckers die for nothing!”
“You know how Uncle Sam treat his veterans, absolutely no respect!”
Moments like these are brilliant, but there are nearly as many misses or mediocre tracks as there are hits. Basically, the sound is inconsistent. It doesn’t help that the Geto Boys included “Punk Bitch Game,” a call-and-response type track from a concert that should have stayed live and off wax. The album’s closer, “Trophy,” is an angry lament by Willie D about not getting Grammy love. The song itself is like much of the album; dope sentiments, but subpar sound. “We Can’t Be Stopped” definitely has its moments, but has too many duds and mediocre tracks to be repeat worthy as a whole.
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