Best known as Crooked I’s posse, the Horse Shoe G.A.N.G. attempts to break through on their own merits with Firing Squad. Unlike their previous effort, Firing Squad does not co-bill Crooked, emphasizing the focus on creating a new set of West Coast stars. While the collective rhyming efforts of G.A.N.G. members Demitrius Capone, Julius Luciano, Kenny Siegel, and Andrew “Dice” Dinero are noteworthy, the album lacks the breakthrough single necessary to put this collective into the ears of even the dedicated Hip-Hop fan.
It’s not as if the G.A.N.G don’t try—the first half of Firing Squad bogs down with cut after cut attempting to capitalize on the modern charts’ fusion of dance grooves and thuggish ruggish rhymes. The group clearly knows what a hit single should sound like, but they just can’t quite strike the right formula. The proceedings thus descend quickly into a generic album-by-numbers feel. Here’s the G.A.N.G. rapping about the corner grind on the mundane “Got’s to Get Money.” Here’s the G.A.N.G. hitting on girls at the club over a weak bass line on “One Night You”. Here’s the G.A.N.G. moving from the club to the titty bar after striking out on “Shake It, Shake It.” Even the song titles are boring.
Much of the fault lies in the production, as the beats on these tracks rarely rise above the second tier. Exceptions include the driving twanged rhythms of “Click Pow” which combine with the verbal gymnastics of the crew to create the record’s signature track. Other more minimalist efforts, such as the soul sample focused “Liquor Abuse” from Poke, allow the G.A.N.G. to showcase their lyrical talents. Despite the aforementioned focus on club hits, the crew, particularly Luciano show more natural ability in a playful, storytelling style. The well done metaphorical alcohol ode “Liquor Abuse,” and the playful “Why Men Cheat,” exemplify humor and group dynamics similar to those of decades past. The G.A.N.G. can get serious too and heartfelt grimy efforts such as the haunting “Ode to the Slums,” show an ability to build off Hip-Hop’s darker side.
The G.A.N.G’s patron shows up on “Paper Planes” to leave no doubt who’s the alpha dog of this pack. If anything, they probably should have avoided Crooked altogether, as his clear superiority as an emcee exposes the crew somewhat. The G.A.N.G’s inability to reach sustained lyrical heights and the general problems with production ultimately doom Firing Squad to mediocrity. The G.A.N.G. could have a brighter future with more effort and ingenuity, but will need heavy doses of both to break out of the bevy of similar groups hailing from the West Coast.