The crew album. Every rapper worth his salt makes one. Since Biggie used his well-deserved cache to put Junior Mafia on in the mid-90s, the formula hasn’t changed. Grab your brothers, best friends, marijuana procurers and whoever else happened to be in the studio that night, knock out 15 tracks or so and put a bow on the thing. The goal here is not artistic triumph or innovation. If you’re lucky, you get two or three legitimately good songs, a handful of inoffensive tracks, a sprinkle of big name guest appearances, and a dud or two to round things off.
Trae The Truth and the A.B.N. Renegadez remain true to form on Welcome 2 The Streetz. The Truth’s trademark hiss stands out (he sounds especially hungry on the Jahlil Beatz produced “Brick Talk”), but the rest of the Renegadez crew blends into one another. No one is outright horrible, but the quartet is frequently indistinguishable in style, content and vocal tone. Add guest appearances by guests as distinctive as Freeway, Krayzie Bone and Twista into the mix, and the lack of a true standout performance from any of the Renegadez becomes harder to ignore.
Still, with a seemingly reinvigorated Trae, some damn good guest verses (see: J. Cole on “Roll Call” and Freddie Gibbs on “Predator”), and solid production throughout, Welcome 2 The Streetz isn’t the stink bomb it could have been. Listeners may not be loving the crew, but they will tolerate them for now. With a little tweaking, the A.B.N. Renegadez may be able to escape from the large shadows cast by the original A.B.N., Trae and Z-Ro. For now, it’s summer, what better place to keep cool?
Label: A.B.N. Entertainment, Oarfin Records