“SOMEBODY RING THE ALARM,” or so proclaims Philly’s Most Wanted on their sophomore album Ring the Alarm, which may have been better suited by the more telling title Nyquil, Warm Milk, and Tryptophan.
While the history of hip-hop includes a large list of successful duos that have cohesively delivered solid records (see Eric B. and Rakim or Outkast), Philly’s Most Wanted members Boobonic and Mr. Man instead contribute a snooze fest of an album that compliments their slow-flow rap style quite well but does little to offer any evidence to support their “most wanted” tag. After hearing PMW's Ring the Alarm (a follow-up to their debut Get Down or Lay Down), comparing Philly's Most Wanted to (forget the aforementioned classic rap groups) even fellow Philly rappers Young Gunz would turn out uncompetitive as the pair downgrade further following their lackluster debut and offer a cookie-cutter format that spells disaster.
While Get Down or Lay Down was probably unfairly judged since hit singles "Cross the Border" and "Please Don't Mind" had long come and gone as hitlist countdown contenders by the time their debut album dropped, it at the very least included Neptunes' production. The Neptunes have been known to get nearly anyone, rapper or otherwise, into the spotlight for at least a song or two (i.e. Kelis, Clipse, etc.). Ring the Alarm cannot even gather that much, as the production is handled by a list of relatively unknown producers that not only fail to replicate the Neptunes' sound; they fail to produce anything remotely listen-able in the year 2004.
The lead single, the title track “Ring the Alarm,” may unfortunately be the group’s finest outing as the twosome glide over a cymbal and bass-laced beat that schizophrenically struggles to be considered a party track. Unfortunately, it ends up sounding more like a “let’s go get another drink” song that features already-heard punchlines (or at least they sound like something that’s already been done) like, “I got bad bitches on E like Brooke Burke.”
Other attempts “Most Wanted Sh*t (Pimp Cup)” and “So Much Trouble (Street Money)” serve as odes to PMW’s street ways but also tangle money, girls, and more confusing club-like beats into the mix that result in easily skipped tracks. “My Baby,” the now lovey-dovey must-have song on every recent rap album, and “Point A Chick Out” both play to the ladies but neither can be taken seriously and both have already been done before and done better by the likes of a Fabolous or Lloyd Banks.
If anything positive can be taken from Ring the Alarm, it may be “Away From Here,” which pairs PMW with Philly native Black Thought. Even he cannot save the effort here but maybe Boobonic and Mr. Man at least picked up a thing or two from the Roots emcee who undoubtedly has ignited more than a few both tracks and crowds throughout his rap career.
Five years ago, few would have doubted the potential of Philly’s Most Wanted and most would have expected them to turn into at the very least a Young Gunz-type duo that could hold the hip-hop community’s attention with a few club bangers and maybe a serious song sprinkled in here and there. Stripped of the Neptunes’ production and slept on even by their record label, Philly’s Most Wanted now exists as a mere skeleton of what they should have become. Instead of keeping clubs up all night, Ring the Alarm will put listeners to sleep with only a bad dream to follow.