No one says that struggling as an underground hip-hop artist is easy work. Just ask someone that's "been there and done that" even once before.
Judging from his sophomore full-length album, "Serve the Devil, Praise the Lord," Buc Fifty knows that fact all too well, as he is either quickly losing faith in the hip-hop game or just trying to emulate another "Fifty," with an album packed-full with gun chatter, money talk, and the same old, same old violent outbursts that have propelled that "other Fifty" into hip-hop stardom. Buc Fifty, however, struggles to move beyond anything above the guns and violence, leading to an album that does "serve the devil," but will fail to gain any praise for being original, interesting, or compelling through 13 tracks of dark and dangerously-repetitive depression.
"Live No More," the album's opening track, starts the show with nary a trace of a hopeful introduction, with Buc Fifty instead using the track to lament, "I don't know what I'm here for, Serve the devil praise the Lord...I don't want to live no more, I don't want to live no more." As if that was not enough to set the tone, Buc reviews a whole list of twisted and downright scary ways to "go out" in a final blaze of glory. Surprisingly though, for as sick and sadistic as the content within the song is, Buc strangely does not come across as insane or crazy over the chimes of the Jay Swift production.
Unfortunately, "Live No More" turns out to be Buc Fifty at his best covering his violent undertone, as other tracks follow similar murder/death/kill patterns but turn out less appealing with "heard-it-all-before" topics and tracks. "Live By The Gun," an ode about Buc's devotion to guns as a solution to all over a beat that sounds like the adopted child of the "Halloween" theme, comes off as boring and repetitive (not to mention that "Live No More" already sufficiently covered much of this gun talk and did so much better).
"Oh Christ" writes the apology letter of Buc's life, as he goes through all the sins he has committed and asks for forgiveness, but unfortunately, it once again just sounds like pointless meandering on the topic of guns and violence. Is he really apologizing for anything here, or has he just tried to create another forum with which he can convey his love for violence?
The true shortcomings of “Serve the Devil,” however, are the titles; yes, the titles of the songs. A track like "Once Upon A Crime," which sounds like it could show off Buc's story-telling abilities, instead transforms into an annoyingly robotic-tinged song concerning Buc growing up and appreciating guns. "Jacker's Delight," appears to be Buc's chance to jack some beats (a la mixtape "freestyles") and show what he can do to some commercial production, but once again, the only thing he "leans back" on is another tale of "hi-jacking" and crime. Even the DJ Revolution-assisted "Ultimate Weapon" fails when Buc prequels his first verse with, "Yo I had this vision, man, of an ill rapper like myself, you being an ultimate DJ, getting together to form the ultimate weapon, you know?" What starts off sounding like it may become an interesting MC/DJ concept only dishes up more of the same old material onto a new plate.
Not everything Buc touches is completely unoriginal, as the actually quite deep "Say It Ain't So," which utilizes nearly the same beat as Nature's "We Ain't Friends," tells the sad tale of his young female neighbor being sexually-molested before he comes to the rescue. "Feeling" splits three verses between his best friend-turned-snake, his ex-girl, and his "haters," in a more personal display than elsewhere on the album. Both also feature adequate R&B choruses that a more than welcome addition above the Buc-provided hooks throughout other tracks.
"Serve the Devil, Praise the Lord" is a dark, violent, malignant collection of tracks from an underground emcee that just does not believably play the role of killer-slash-gangster through song. Originality and being genuine will get an emcee far in the jam-packed world of underground hip-hop, and hip-hop in general. Unfortunately, Buc Fifty does not separate himself enough from the pack with "Serve the Devil, Praise the Lord" to be considered anything other than a wandering and repetitive underground emcee. Maybe Buc has lost faith in hip-hop, and maybe he is trying to emulate the other "Fifty" to make the quick buck (no pun intended). Or maybe, just maybe "serving the devil" has finally caught up to Buc Fifty.