Hip Hop has become an industry infatuated with following trends instead of paving the way for new ones. Once one particular sound is popularized, corporate America looks to duplicate it repeatedly for profits. St. Louis is the new Hip Hop spot that the industry is looking to capitalize off of. Ever since Nelly took the world by storm with his own brand of catchy, sing along pop songs, every record label and A&R has looked to duplicate the sound in order to make a quick buck. Following in the footsteps of Nelly, The St. Lunatics & Chingy is St. Louis's newest pop sensation J-Kwon.
There is no getting around the fact that without his St. Louis residence and Midwest accent, J-Kwon would just be another unsigned artists struggling to get by. But since those that come before him have had commercial success, labels such as So So Def are now willing to take a chance on an untalented artist merely because his sound is the new trend of the industry. This is never more evident than on J-Kwon's debut release "Hood Hop".
While J-Kwon intendeds to strike it rich by blending Hip Hop and pop together, the 17 year old emcee lacks the creative flare that an artist like Nelly brought to the table. In fact "Hood Hop' merely follows in the usual "blueprint" of how to make a Midwest album these days. You have the fist single "Tipsy", which has blown up all across America, due to an infectious Trackboyz produced track that sounds all too similar to the Clipse's "Grindin". J-Kwon also does some jacking himself, as he lifts D.O.C.'s "It's Funky Enough" lyrics to start off each of his verses. "One, here comes the two to the three to the four. Everybody drunk out on the dance floor". From there on the journey is predictable, as you would expect. The simplistic, keyboard bounce sounds of "Show Your Ass", "Underwear", "Parking Lot" and "Hood Hop" are all generic, run of the mill commercial attempts that lack any depth, substance, creativity or replay value.
However, J-Kwon does try to show some growth with the heartfelt "They Ask Me", where the under aged emcee delves into his emotional pain growing up as a kid. From dealing with his grandmothers sickness, to getting in trouble at school, J-Kwon offers a decent but forced tale of a 17 year olds pain. The only other standout effort comes from the albums hardest cut "My Enemies" featuring Jermaine Dupri. Thankfully JD cooks up some harder hitting production, which is a breath of fresh air from the Trackboyz amateur production cluttered throughout the album.
While it maybe unfair, J-Kwon is a representation of the Hip Hop industry's blind willingness to duplicate and overuse the hot sound of the moment. There is not much you can walk away with after listening to the youngsters debut album "Hood Hop". Lyrical talent is at a minimum, creativity is nowhere to be seen and the dated production is all too cut and paste. To J-Kwon's benefit, he does have that superstar like flare that will undoubtedly attract many to his cause. He comes off as a confident emcee throughout "Hood Hop", and one who knows who his intended listener and market is. If anything you can give J-Kwon credit for being truthful in admitting his intentions of bridging the gap between the pop and rap world. But in the end these intentions cannot cover up for the lack of talent J-Kwon brings to the table. Whether J-Kwon ends up as the one hit wonder many proclaim him to be is something only time will tell. But if J-Kwon intends to gain longevity in this game he will need to show and prove to the entire world that he is not just a puppet of the industry but a respectable artist in his own right.