Swizz Beatz Makes An Unlikely But Welcome Comeback With A Lively Shot Of ‘Poison’

Epic Recods

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There’s a saying down south, “This is so good, it makes you wanna slap your mama.” Usually pertaining to food, it’s an expression of unusual enjoyment, such as a bite into a succulent, savory rack of slow-cooked ribs so heavenly and juicy and uncommonly delicious, the only possible reaction is one just as uncommon, as unthinkable. No one would slap their own mother unprompted, provided their mom isn’t, like, a complete monster. If anything is good enough to incite such a response, it’s out of this world.

Hip-hop is having a fantastic year in 2018. Despite myopic formalist humbugging and grumbles that there’s too much to keep track of from the online peanut gallery, rap music is currently in the middle of an explosion of talent and variety. Yet there was still one thing missing. For all the innovation and genre-bending and raw energy on display in the past 10 months worth of beats and rhymes, there wasn’t yet an album that could force that most magnified southern expression. Sheck Wes probably came closest, but even his excellent, energetic debut could still be nitpicked by purists for whom his bug-eyed, volcanic eruptions might have been too weird. But now, we have that album and it came from an unexpected source. It’s Swizz Beatz’ comeback after a decade of radio silence on the album front, it’s called Poison, and yes, it is so good, it will make you wanna slap your mama.

It’s perhaps unexpected and unusual because Swizz isn’t exactly well-known for his album-making prowess. It’s a bit of a running joke in rap circles online over the past few years that despite being a heralded hip-hop producer with over two decades of certified hits to his name, Swizz is best known for “ruining” songs, as both a rapper and as a producer. A top-level lyricist he is not; his exuberant ad-libs can inject a jolt of spastic energy into pretty much anything he yells “Got Dammit” over, but the last thing you wanted was for him to contribute a full verse. It was a thing for a while to find versions of songs just hours old with Swizz edited out; Kanye West’s GOOD Friday loosie “Lord, Lord, Lord” is a prime example.

His debut album, One Man Band Man sold less than 200,000 units in a year and received a mid-temperature welcome from music critics. It’s generally accepted that his “everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink” approach to soundscaping his clattering, cacophonous productions can result in breathtaking highs (T.I.’s “Bring ‘Em Out,” Beyonce’s “Upgrade U,” Cassidy’s “I’m A Hustla,” and DMX’s “Party Up“) and cringey misses (Jay-Z’s “Girl’s Best Friend“).