American outlaws Frank and Jesse James were among the most notorious bandits in history. Wreaking havoc and robbing was a way of life for the James Brothers, as they shot their way across the state of Missouri and committed a series of raids with the James-Younger Gang. Jesse was eventually murdered by Robert Ford while cleaning a dusty picture, while Frank went on to give tours of the James Farm and died at age 72 in 1915.
Often romanticized, the James Brothers are frequently elevated to legendary status and used as examples for the gangster and thug lifestyle. With lives coated in heartbreak and odd sadness, the real story behind the James-Younger Gang and their activities is never quite as thrilling as the romanticized versions.
And perhaps that’s what takes the wind out of the sails of Kurupt and Roscoe’s The Frank and Jess Story. The title, an ode to the aforementioned James Brothers, sparks a sense of revitalization. Blood is thicker than water and West Coast rapper Kurupt is banking on that connection with his younger brother Roscoe in their debut record as a duo.
Kurupt, the former executive vice president of Death Row Records and member of Tha Dogg Pound, carries this record. He takes the majority of the workload and handles his business well, dropping some of his usual braggadocio and sprinkling his street wisdom into the pockets. Roscoe seems talented, but here he is essentially underwhelming.
Make no mistake about it, Kurupt is the selling feature here. Having dropped rhymes on just about every early Death Row record in the heyday of gangsta rap, he’s a solid MC when he sticks with what he knows. Sadly, that also often makes him sound redundant and pointlessly dull. Having never surpassed his best record (1999’s Tha Streetz Iz a Mutha), Kurupt has been left on the sidelines while other, better rappers from the gangsta rap movement have progressed.
In a day and age when rappers are going political or engaging in the social issues of our time, Kurupt and Roscoe impenitently live and appear to flourish in the past. The lyrics are still about weed, bitches, and bling. The weird inclusion of Gail Gotti, Kurupt’s wife, on one of the record’s two strip club anthems (“Like Dem Girls”) furthers the notion that Kurupt and Roscoe might be a little behind the times.
The record’s other strip club anthem, the indolent and disused “Lap Dance,” is as bad as every other lap dance-related hip hop track besides N.E.R.D.’s take and oozes the same inanity. The beat is sluggish and dreary and the lyrics lack punch and essence.
As if The Frank and Jess Story needed to prove its obsolete nature any further, Too Short shows up on “Break It Down Like” and delivers his usual vociferous punches. Unfortunately, he doesn’t mesh with the track very well and the whole effort winds up sounding really lethargic and passé. The same game happens with the majority of the record, capping a rather lacklustre entry.
The Frank and Jess Story features a promising duo in Kurupt and Roscoe, both of whom have utilized their talents to much greater effects elsewhere, but in the end the music and lyrics are just unimaginative and barren.