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Music Review: Trick Daddy – Book of Thugs: Chapter AK, Verse 47

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Trick Daddy, born Maurice Young, has amassed quite a bit of both popularity and clout with Rap fans below the Mason Dixon line. With his current stardom, it’s almost ironic to think that six and a half years ago he was simply trying to break himself out beyond that aforementioned imaginary border. The Miami native (Trick was born and raised in Miami’s Liberty City, arguably the city’s roughest area) finally got some major airplay with “Shut Up,” his biggest hit since 1998’s “Nann Nigga,” and also the lead single off of Book of Thugs: Chapter AK, Verse 47. And if you followed Trick Daddy’s career up to this point, you know exactly what to expect.

Trick was not new to the Rap scene at this point (he released Based on a True Story…, his debut, under the name Trick Daddy Dollars three years prior). He was and still is, undoubtedly, one of the hungriest southern rappers to ever receive some major airplay. Trick’s subject matter was nothing original, but his presentation is light-years ahead of the competition. He would eventually progress through his career and lean more towards Pop-oriented topic matter and become less concerned with the thug themes he relied on in past material, but that doesn’t keep his once darker approach to music any less entertaining. Trick’s aged output was much gritter than the rest (competition included) and that is no more evident than on Book of Thugs’ 17 tracks.

The most prominent material on this particular release, as per usual with Trick’s older works, is the thug tracks. It may be his first album on a major label, but Trick’s formula remained largely the same as that on Based on a True Story… and its excellent follow-up www.thug.com. The gritty, almost haunting “Thug Life Again” is the alpha and omega of the gangsta tracks that can be found on this LP; none of them quite measure up to this one. Harsh, uncompromising lyrics which revolve around breaking a crew member out of prison and upholding thug laws, not to mention the vicious, skittering production, are unmatched by anything else that this album has to offer.

Tracks that manage to come close are the club-ready “Shut Up” which acts as both one for the streets and one for the dance floor and manages to successfully merge the two subgenres with little error. Guest spots include frequent Trick collaborators Duece Poppi, Trina and Co who all drop serviceable, if ultimately forgettable, verses. The album’s opener, “Boy,” is unique in that it incorporates Miami’s bass roots into its thumping production, combining catchy lyrics and also truly vibrant, upbeat backup for Trick, Miami-based group The Lost Tribe and J.V. to spit over. Even the darker, synth-heavy “Bout My Money,” which could have almost been too dark for its own good, stands alone as one of the album’s best moments. Trick’s charismatic rhyming and unique flow is a perfect match for the throbbing bass and light piano keys.

Anyone who lives in the south certainly remembers Trick’s smash hit, “Take It to da House,” from just five and a half years ago. It seems this formula has always been something Trick wanted to experiment with as “Get on Up” is as close as any other Trick Daddy song has come to replicating that sound. It’s catchy, dirty, catchy, well-produced and… oh, yes… catchy. It contains everything one could ask for in a club jam and Trick serves it up on a silver platter.

Not a stranger to songs relating to the opposite sex, either, there’s a good number of them to be thrown around throughout Book of Thugs’ near 54 minute running time. “Thug for Life” is a rhythmic, laidback ode to Trick always keeping his player ways intact, while “Could It Be” is a complete 180; instead of an ode to the player lifestyle, the rapper professes his love to a female and describes to the listener just how he enjoys loving her. Could this be a true love or simply lust? Trick asks a similar question on the hook. It’s much deeper than anything else on the album and, for that, it deserves repeated listens if simply for an early verse from Twista and the fantastic production.

Mystikal had just left No Limit when this album was released and this was one of his first gigs off of the ill-fated label. “Tryin’ to Stop Smokin’” is one of the few songs I find myself skipping when listening to this album if simply for the too-busy-for-its-own-good production. Mystikal brings his usual brand of self-referential humor and charisma to the table and Trick handles himself well while in the company of one of the Dirty South’s finest, but the production holds little to no weight here.

It seems even the toughest rappers have to have a song dedicated to the problems they face in their day to day lives, and for Trick, “America” is no different. Explaining to the listener what a poor black man (or the poor in general) face everyday, as well as speaking on such things as corrupt police officials and a poor judicial system, Trick’s lone message track is certainly worth the disc it’s printed on. Society guests with Trick and also manages to spit the better verse. Trick proves here that he has a good eye for social consciousness and should definitely try to put it to use more often. The synth-heavy, keyboard-laden production is nothing too fancy, though it provides the perfect ambiance for the track as a whole. One of the strongest songs here and, without a doubt, one of the most eye-opening, this will surely turn some heads.

Book of Thugs: Chapter AK, Verse 47 is easily one of the best of Trick’s early albums. Not quite as good as www.thug.com, but also not as commercially viable as Thugs Are Us, it lies somewhat closer to the former, but with a bigger budget behind it. Trick is an exceptional rapper, though not the best, and the production is solid throughout, which is more than I can say for some of his later albums. If you like Trick’s singles but never wanted to give his albums a chance, you’re certainly missing out. He’s always been one of the south’s most promising rappers and this disc is one of the reasons why I continue to say that.

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About Thomas Steenhagen