The political rap of Immortal Technique, Public Enemy, Dead Prez, KRS-One, and others has long had a place in my music collection, so it was with great anticipation that I slipped General Steele’s ambitious Amerikkka’s Nightmare Part 2: Children of War in to my CD player.
General Steele is actually Steele of hip hop duo Smif-n-Wessun. Based out of Brooklyn, Smif-n-Wessun enjoyed some popularity in the underground scene as part of the Boot Camp Clik. On his own, Steele has taken to a bit of a political slant. His Amerikkka’s Nightmare, not to be confused with Spice 1’s 1994 record AmeriKKKa’s Nightmare or even Ice Cube’s debut AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, was a mixtape that introduced General Steele’s concept to fans.
Amerikkka’s Nightmare Part 2 follows up the mixtape with a sprawling “12 track history lesson.” As ambitious as the record is, General Steele just never seems to get a handle on his vision and the resulting sprawl is messy, muddled and often bland given the stronger alternatives.
According to Steele, “America the beautiful has an ugly past. It is the people who live in this great country who have struggled relentlessly to establish this country under the basic common human and constitutional rights that all people should have.”
Amerikkka’s Nightmare Part 2 attempts to pick up this righteous indignation and does hit on some persuasive lyrical points, but the production is so tangled that it’s hard for the record to gain any momentum. Tracks are jagged and feature peculiar samples, resulting in a near-complete loss of meaning.
While it’s commendable for General Steele to hold Barack Obama’s feet to the same criticism often reserved for Bush and Co., feeble beats and careless production simply drags this whole project down. Steele’s attack just isn’t strong enough to elevate beyond the slapdash proceedings, either, and Amerikkka’s Nightmare Part 2 ends up tepid.
A puzzling rock backdrop that sounds a little like Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” transforms “Child of War” into a preposterous cut, while a noisy and lazy reproduction of a Jimi Hendrix jam crowds out the lyrics from “Home of the Brave.”
Other cuts merely rely on the same basic snare-led beats, with “Pledge Allegiance” feeling lethargic and “Amerikkkan Skemin” coming across more indolent than intimidating.
The worst moment comes with the cluttered, ridiculous “Rebellious,” however. Featuring Madison Rocks and a dreadful set of background vocals from Nicole Michelle, this track is strident, obnoxious and busy. It’s a terrible way to close out the record and drags even the most average of moments down into the dumpster.
While General Steele’s concept certainly was admirable, other politically-charged rappers have covered this ground with more skill and stability. Amerikkka’s Nightmare Part 2 crumbles under the burden of its own ambition, sadly. Perhaps a more reasonable, attentive approach would have led to a better record.