It is very rare when an emcee uses played-out themes, styles, and images in songs but still makes their songs sound fresh and exciting. Like Jay-Z, Half A Mill is one of those emcees. Half A Mill has been on the scene with The Firm and with Buckshot on his BDI Thug" LP. His debut release on Warlock Records "Million" made some minor noise with the help of the Neptunes-produced single "Thug Ones" featuring Kool G. Rap and Noreaga. His first album took a long time to grow on me. Initially, I didn't like it at all but through time and many more listens, I began to appreciate it. Half A Mill, the Brooklyn-born emcee, is back with his sophomore album "Da Hustle Don't Stop." While his debut album had production by Neptunes, Trackmasters, Curt Gowdy and a young (& just starting out) Just Blaze, "Da Hustle Don't Stop" is almost exclusively produced by unknown DJ Ali or J. Blend. The results include many incredible tracks and some mediocre ones.
The best tracks grab the listener's attention instantly unlike the ones on "Million". Without a doubt, "Miliato" is one of the best tracks on the album. Produced by J. Blend, "Miliato" has that Spanish-western legend feel due to the lyrics and the guitar sample. The hook, chanted by Mill, creates the narrator to be a legend or a myth in these contemporary times. It's brilliant how he uses the myth and legend of the old west/Mexican atmosphere as a metaphor for drug dealing and gangster life. The title track, "The Hustle Don't Stop" (produced by DJ Ali) is also an incredible track. With all of the energy and sound of a blaxploitation film, Mill and the music work well together as they create an anthem for hustling and making money. Mill rhymes in his opening verse, "…When I'm on the mic, I rock the mic right / When I'm on the block, I rock the block right / A thousand grams of that China White / 5 o'clock in the morning, out on that corner till straight into the night…" The beat glides along with both that old-school 70's feel and a modern mix of the new millennium. His delivery and energy on the mic along with his lyrics make this a very entertaining anthem. Another gem is "Saprano Style" featuring Ali Vegas & Sleepy Eyes. Produced by DJ Ali, "Saprano Style" uses one of those Italian Mafioso guitar loops in the hook creating the atmosphere similar to movies like The Godfather. The Firm tried this and only succeeded with some songs. Here, Mill and his crew does the job well. Ali Vegas handles the chanted hook and contributes a very vivid verse about getting arrested. It's terrific posse cut. "Go On" featuring Quintay Soul (produced by DJ Ali) is a very heartfelt and introspective tale that is also very inspirational. Half A Mill tells a very sad and true tale about his junkie father. The first verse is so vivid that is extremely easy for the listener to follow along and get involved: "…What about my father? / He didn't want to be bothered / Too busy nodding off of heron / He'd take me up to Yonkers / He'd stick n*ggas up while I was with him / Come back to Harlem and buy grams - he was sniffing / Leaning back, his nose dripping / One day, he was so high, he forgot I was with him / I was 5 when he left me on the street / On 145th & Lennox / Imagine that - he was weak but his son was stronger / I took the A train to Brooklyn / First thing a n*gga did was call Grandma / She was mad as hell / Said when she was gone see that motherf*cka, she was gonna stab him…" Verses like these separate Half A Mill from the typical champagne-popping Mafioso rappers. With Quintay Soul singing in the background, Half A Mill chants the hook: "…Go on! Live your life / Follow your dreams / One day, you're gonna see the light / Go on! / Young man, follow your plans / Have this whole wide world in the palm of your hands…" The song could have been very trite and cheesy but it becomes truly heartfelt due to the harsh realism and a touching vulnerability on the mic.
Other good songs run throughout the album. "Izzerb" features Nature and was produced by DJ Ali. We all know how much Nature loves smoking weed and this track supports that fact. Using 3-6-Mafia's melody for "Sippin' On Some Syrup", Half A Mill & Nature chant the hook: "…Puffing on some izzerb (puff puff!)…" It's a fun track with a very bouncy beat. "N.Y.C." (produced by J. Blend) is an anthem for all the boroughs. Half A Mill actually sings the hook, with vivid verses of crime and ghetto life, he paints a very realistic picture of city he represents. "Soddom And Gommorrah" (featuring Sluggy Ranks) is a reggae inspired track produced by DJ Ali. The reggae vibe truly adds a nice diversity to album's flow as Ranks sings the hook. Other cool tracks include "Only You" which uses the sample of "What You Wont Do For Love" in a very intelligent way.
There are also a couple of borderline tracks that go back and forth from being decent or lame. "Vacation" (produced by DJ Ali) is basically Half A Mill telling us that he goes on very expensive vacations all over the world. It is unique because he lyrically goes all around the world but it becomes trite due to his constant reminders of his high level of flossing. The hook sounds somewhat rushed unlike the verses. The song is mediocre when it could have been somewhat clever. "Real Thugs" (produced by DJ Ali) has Mill rapping in that southern double-time flow. He does pull it off but the whole "thug" theme does have a somewhat generic feel to it. Overall, this track has more good points than bad. "Still" and "World Famous" are also decent tracks. Even though these two tracks lack some imagination and are a little generic, Half A Mill has enough charisma and lyrical ability to keep the song's quality level slightly above average.
The album's flaws come from the trite subject matter of popping champagne, clubbing and flossing. The album opener "Get In Da Club" featuring Dolce is a horrible representation of the album. I suggest people not judge the album on the opening track. Even though DJ Ali's production and his astute use of the acoustic guitar along with the glossy club beat creates a wild energy, Dolce's hook and verse sound extremely tacky. By using the Beanie Sigel's line from "Do It Again", Half A Mill created an entire song. It's a blatant attempt at a radio-friendly commercial track and a poor album opener. "Things You Do" featuring Quintay Soul is another commercial track with an R&B hook that is produced by DJ Ali. Even though Half A Mill does deliver some decent verses about relationships, the glossy beat and generic sung hook makes the track fall flat. "Get Up" (featuring tacky and generic R&B vocals by Hersanity) falls into this category too. Produced by Mike James, "Get Up" is a shallow track that deals with getting people on the dance floor and raise their champagne glasses. Half A Mill is at his best when he is in drug-dealing mafioso mode and not when he's flossing in club, dancing and popping corks.
Overall, Half A Mill utilizes the over-used images and themes of the Mafioso-hip-hop but makes "Da Hustle Don't Stop" unique due to his passion, lyrics, and charisma. As an emcee, he flips many styles from straight & hungry rapping to the Southern double-time flow. He can be heartfelt, introspective and vulnerable on one track while being angry and sinister on the next. He always pulls it off and creates good verses. He can also go from the subject matter of the glossy life of flossing to the gritty life of drug dealing and back to the glamorous life of a gangster. At the core, he still is a child of the ghetto and he did not forget where he came from. This album will probably be ignored or go un-noticed due to poor promotion but it has many gems. Like his debut LP "Million," most songs hit hard and work very well but a handful sound somewhat generic and uninspired. Still, any true Half A Mill fan should be pleased by "Da Hustle Don't Stop". While most emcees fail miserably when there sophomore album does not have the well-known producers that were on their debut, Half A Mill has proven that he can create a very good album with his own camp of producers and underground emcees. For Half A Mill, the hustle truly did not stop and his fans can be thankful for that.