Album Review: Guilty Simpson – O.J. Simpson

The Stones Throw label has yet to upset me in this era of hip-hop. These guys just have their own formula that keeps their little crew apart from the majority of modern rap music. By associating the label with names now notorious in the game, like Danger Doom, Quasimoto, J Dilla, and Peanut Butter Wolf, this collection of artists has separated themselves from everybody else. Rapper Guilty Simpson, who’s moniker comes from his belief on a certain NFL-related murder, is no different, with his intellect, unique flow, and vocal style as well as rough lyrical content. He fits the profile for a Stones Throw rapper like O.J. Simpson fits the profile for a guilty party. And to top it off, he gets his second effort, O.J. Simpson, produced by Stones Throw’s world-famous Beat Konducta, Madlib. And as I have said in the past, nothing makes me happier than spectacular collaborations.

Now I must admit, I have heard little of Guilty Simpson’s work prior to this record (except for some tracks with Jaylib and some appearances on Chrome Children), but Madlib, on the other hand, is one of my personal favorite producers. His work with MF Doom, J Dilla, his alter-ego Lord Quas and even his jazz group Yesterday’s New Quintet are all spectacular records. At first listen, I had no idea this effort was produced by Madlib, other than the fact that it’s filled with his vintage style of sampling old jazz, bizarre monologs, and off-the-wall rhythms. This discovery only made me restart the album on my iPod, since there was no way to rewind my hypothetical tape in my imaginary boom box.

The “Prelude” to this album gives us a surgeon general’s warning, advising us that this record could be damaging to our ears, but most likely only in the sense that it may be too awesome for us to handle (most of Madlib’s production is very mellow). With a standard Madlib-kickoff beat, complete with odd vocal sampling, you know OJ Simpson is in full effect. An instrumental interlude (“Introduction”) follows, and then Guilty Simpson’s baritone fire spouts on the title track. “O.J. Simpson” works like a magician pulling things out of weird places. Through a strong rhythm and flow, Guilty Simpson references quasars, New Year’s Eve, pricing hand me downs ,and how he sounds better live. Meanwhile, Madlib kicks a stellar beat, which sounds just as badass as anything he did on Champion Sound.

“New Heights” starts off by proclaiming Guilty Simpson as one of the greatest of our time, and then he begins rapping about “Purple-bagged Crown Royal” (one of my favorite drinks!). He discusses substances enhancing his ability as an artist, such as referencing “light endo for enlightenment,” and how doing all the things he does will “take the game to new heights.” “Karma of a Kingpin” is a traditional Madlib style beat, complete with Guilty Simpson telling a tale of one of his first “idols” within the ghetto, a person who clearly lives the life of a kingpin. “Coroner’s Music” is a perfect Madlib production, with a bizarre keyboard loop, strange sampling and a tight drum line. Simpson proudly boasts that he keeps the coroners working while he makes threats about tossing Molotov cocktails in your crib. Holy shit, this dude is guilty of kicking your ass.

The track “Hood Sentence” sounds a bit more exotic with its drumming and instrumentation. He shows how hood and how ahead of everybody else in the game he is with lines like, “Do your research/My name rings bells on the heavy block/You lame/Your splash in the game was a belly flop.” The guy has no problem showcasing his ego and attitude, which in rap is always a commendable trait. And Madlib never stops on the production, keeping it smooth and silky. For Guilty Simpson’s people, there’s “Cali Hills”, a song that sounds more ready for radio than anything Madlib ever has created prior (other than maybe “America’s Most Blunted”). The beat makes you want to bounce as Guilty Simpson talks about the deceased J Dilla, how his career is taking off, and how his dreams are all coming true. It’s these kinds of songs that can get a talented rapper noticed in the first place.

Frank Nitt is featured on the track “Scratch Warning”, with its fierce hook and diabolical rhythm. The song makes it sound like the reign of Stones Throw hip-hop is something to be reckoned with, rather than their normal mellow vibe that they showcase. “My team got money to the ceiling,” the rappers proudly proclaim, showing that this all has clearly paid off. “Outside” features the rapper Strong Arm Steady, where they declare right at the start, “Bitch, meet me outside.” The song is your standard rap tune about a your-crew-fucks-with-my-crew scenario, in which Guilty Simpson and company have no problem boasting about how they will be the inevitable victors. “Mic Check 313” contains an amazing and catchy guitar hook, where Guilty Simpson threatens individuals with a Columbian necktie and how if “he pulls the trigger/you’re gone.” “100 Styles” is a banger of a tune, where Guilty Simpson puts his skills on the mic, describing how vicious he truly is within every aspect of his life. To close out the record, a lo-fi fanfare outro plays until the end, and you feel like you have just been on a tour-de-force of the Detroit ghetto.

If rap is about keeping it real, Guilty Simpson is on his way to the top. His tales of unique lyrical ability, trying for fame, witnessing hard ghetto life, being king of his hood, and exhibition of popping shells in various others: He truly has no problem keeping it real and being himself. He’s a nut. That’s alright though, because in modern hip-hop, there is more than enough room for intellectual crazies. In a way, he’s much like the man the album is named after, O.J. Simpson. O.J. was clearly a nut, but he was good at what he did; playing football and hiring lawyers. Guilty Simpson’s talents lie elsewhere, and are more admirable. He may be a nut, but at least his talents include structuring sociological lyrical content, flowing with his velvet, baritone voice, and keeping shit raw and fresh. As for Madlib, that guy just needs to keep making music, because any rhyme over a Madlib beat, with the right delivery, sounds like pure gold. Stones Throw certainly has done it again, and if they keep it up, they’ll own the fucking airwaves.


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