Thursday, March 13, 2008

Drama, "Gangsta Grillz" (Music)

If 2007 marked the return of the posse cut and DJ Khaled shepherded the trend to new, forcefully enunciated heights, DJ Drama’s long-delayed Gangsta Grillz studio album is something of a one-up. The operative strategy: Cram as many rappers onto a track as possible, outfit them with heaving, synth-drizzled production, and let the rain fall down. Most of the groupings here are sensible—Project Pat, B.G., and Eightball & MJG seethe over “187,” and the G Unit leftover “Talk Bout Me” and Texas huddle “Gettin Money” both brim with signature Drama enthusiasm. The Madd Rapper even returns, hilariously, to scold the uninitiated.

But an album this cluttered struggles to cohere—why are Devin the Dude, Twista, LÀ The Darkman, and Mr. Porter sharing a track, the velvety “Beneath The Diamonds”? What made Drama’s Gangsta Grillz mixtape franchise so enrapturing in the first place was focus. They were blasts of aggression united, either by artist or by region, in intensity.

So for all the shouting and money-wad tossing here, it’s OutKast’s marvelous “The Art Of Storytellin Part 4” that steals the show. Self-serious, organflecked, and buoyed by another Andre 3000 verse for the books, it’s completely centered: Two aged stylists make this overcrowded affair seem intimate.