Clinton Sparks seems to think that you may have been brainwashed by the radio, and he has the perfect solution to cure you – brainwash you again, in his own DJ Clinton Sparks sort of way.
Though the Boston-bred Sparks has held down the mixtape game for years now and even developed one of the top mixtape-selling web sites on the Internet, he still makes sure to include his now-legendary “Get Familiar” baby-voiced tagline with every record he produces or presents. And his new Maybe You Been Brainwashed official mixtape (KOCH Records) is no different with Sparks presenting a solid and formidable line-up of tracks that introduce you to the production of the man, who, quite frankly, hardly needs an introduction these days.
Combining samples from Notorious B.I.G.’s “Kick in the Door” with the haunting strings of hip-hop violinist Miri Ben-Ari on “Run This City” provides just enough energy to get P. Diddy to spit some of his most aggressive and hungry lyrics in years. Likewise, the upbeat banger that Sparks delivers on “Let It Go” sees Nature and Noreaga trade quick-hitting and vicious, albeit sometimes ridiculous, rhymes heard rarely from either since the Capone-N-Noreaga War Report days.
Joe Budden rehashes everything from his Def Jam label situation to his family troubles to his bout with depression on the introspective “Whatever It Takes,” a track that originally saw Joey spitting rhymes over the Young Gunz “Tough Luv” beat. Sparks ekes out the last bit of emotion attached to the heartfelt-penned anthem with a chipmunk-soul backdrop and hand-claps as Budden stretches his words out for just over 6 minutes.
The recent trendy emergence of Jay-Z samples on hip-hop hooks continues on the Clipse’s “Where You Been,” where Sparks thankfully supplements a bouncy down-South track to tone down the presence of Jigga’s voice. Backed up by one-half of the Clipse, Pusha, rapping, “They wanna know about the kid who hat backwards, who backyard looks like it’s a scene from the Masters, And what I know about a 9-iron? The only iron I know, the .9 I was firing,” Sparks come out a winner – and the well-placed Office Space quotation adds a bit of tongue-in-cheek sarcasm just for good measure.
High-energy efforts from Mobb Deep on “Okay Dun” and “Bidadidat,” as well as yet another hard street anthem from Fabolous on “Still Can’t Deny It,” despite the Nate Dogg fill-in vocals from XL, all keep Clinton Sparks’ reputation moving as the guy shaking the soft exteriors off tracks and replacing them with hard efforts. Maybe you been brainwashed, but even you remember what that sounds like, right?
While the choppy styles and blasé effort of Lil’ Flip have no business meshing with Sparks’ scratched-up “Underground Legend” and the original Ol’ Dirt Bastard track “Pop Shots” would have been best left in the hands of DJ Premier, Sparks falters are few and far between. Even the risky running pianos and cowbells on Biggie’s hidden track gem “Can I Get Wit Chu?” sprinkle radio-play goodness over the B.I.G. vocals without sacrificing the lyrical prowess of the deceased legend.
Though Sparks’ credits his first official mixtape Maybe You Been Brainwashed as the lead-in to his official album, Get Familiar Vol. 1, enough exists here to label Clinton Sparks as a force to be reckoned with in the immediate future. Shaking the rust off some of the game’s more under-enthusiastic emcees, Sparks successfully presents his go-hard-or-go-home production style while actively reprogramming the minds of hip-hop fans everywhere.
Maybe you have been brainwashed to think otherwise, but one listen to Clinton Sparks’ Maybe You Been Brainwashed reveals the truth: hip-hop is more than what the radio is giving you these days. Please, get familiar.