Since its inception, hip-hop has been a youth-driven culture and one of the pitfalls of this situation is that we fail to give proper due to our elders. If there were ever an MC who deserved a lifetime achievement award Craig G would be near the top of the short list. As a Juice Crew member he rhymed on Marley Marl’s paradigm-shifting “Symphony,” destroyed the previously impervious Supernatural in a legendary battle, cultivated a legion of underground followers in the 90s–and to top it all off was responsible for all of B-Rabbit’s opponents’ bars in 8-Mile. Now Craig G is back with the fifth studio album of his career, the aptly titled Ramblings of an Angry Old Man.
In case the listener can’t infer from the album title what type of ride they’re in for Craig G clears the air on the intro. “…I dropped my first single 26 years ago at the tender age of twelve. And I seen a lot of changes to this game. But me, myself? I prefer to stick to the foundation that hip-hop was built on, hard beats and lyrics. So in choosing that path I’m considered a hater or an angry old man, so why run from it?…So in closing, lemme just say this. If your idea of hip-hop is 90% of what you hear on the radio waves, then turn this album off now. Cuz it’s not for you.”
Ramblings Of An Angry Old Man has 12 producers over 17 tracks; Marco Polo, DJ Nastee, LMNO, Jake One, and Da Beatminerz among them, all providing ample butane to fuel Craig G’s conflagration. He habitually makes rapping look easy, dutifully engaging in all the minutiae that separates the great from the good, hitting the target with an uncanny attention to detail, and does it all without breaking a sweat. Big Pooh and Justus League cameo killer Chaundon team up with Craig G on “Effortless,” a horn-laden Jake One banger that’s reminiscent of a secret agent man flick. All parties engage in overt ops, metaphorically collapsing windpipes with Big Pooh hitting it out of the park batting clean-up.
By and large the rest of the guest spots go to fellow old(er) heads. Styles P, Devin the Dude, and Sadat X make noteworthy contributions while Mr. Cheeks, appearing on two songs for unknown reasons, almost ruins both tracks he’s featured on with cheesetastic, unconvincing platitudes. In the midst of all the boom bap LMNO tosses an unorthodox beat into the mix–“Originality”–and Craig G obliges with a flow that’s equally as distant from his stylistic modus operandi thus far. Each line starts on the one of each bar with a distinct pause on the four, before he barrels full steam ahead into the next polysyllabic stanza of technical proficiency. “Call That Hip Hop”, a bouncy K-Salaam and Beatnik heatrock, is the cut all the curmudgeons listening will rejoice in as Craig G calls out top 40 rappers for repetitiveness, lacking innovation and generally fakin’ jax. As he puts it, “That ain’t hip/that’s a mutation of what we helped build on that radio station/labels cut the check to get songs placed in, rotation/the game needs an evaluation.”
‘Old’ and ‘mad’ get thrown around like epithets when it comes to any critique of the current state of hip hop. More often than not they’re not only complimentary, but virtually synonymous. Fortunately for those in the mature and agitated camp there’s no longer an age limit for rappers and a sizeable percentage of the artists they revered in yesteryear are still making fresh, dope music. Craig G’s Ramblings of an Angry Old Man is a middle finger to tastemakers that have marginalized the Golden Age and it’s values, proving that skills still reign supreme at the end of the day.