Houston Music

Eightball & MJG/South Park Mexican

Houston fans sometimes get a little worried when a local rapper blows up and prepares to take on the world. As any Houstonian, we'll admit we're a fickle lot. If the rapper in question makes us look bad by not coming correct, we'll forget about their asses faster than we forgot about H-town.

Eightball & MJG have had their share of success on both solo and group projects. With their latest, Space Age 4 Eva, the boys are letting everybody know they're still in the game. Dubbing themselves "the pimps of the brand-new millennium," the Memphis-bred, Houston-based duo succumb to their wicked ways while laying on the icy synthesizers and rambunctious wordplay. Conceptually, they want to give off the vibe that not a damn thing has changed -- they're the same ol' strapped ballas they were back in the day. That's also the problem.

Their lack of aesthetic progression is what makes the album so uneven. (It's like they forgot the steps toward maturity they made on their last album, In Our Lifetime, Vol. 1). The beats are tight, especially those supplied by seasoned pros Jazze Pha and Ruff Ryders general Swizz Beatz. (The Jazze Pha-produced "Thingz," with its wicky-wicky guitar work, is their most pimpalicious number yet.) But the lyrical accompaniment at times sounds played out. Honestly, how many times can two brothas talk about busting nuts without sounding just plain nasty? In Eightball & MJG's universe, there is funk, but not much exploration.

Local darling South Park Mexican also is getting a taste of the success juice. You could say his well-publicized distribution deal with Universal has given the rapper a more positive outlook. SPM has never sounded as peppy in his whole damn career as he does on his latest solo project, Time Is Money. The brooding barrio boy has progressed from mellow to jolly. Is he selling out? Hardly. You could claim about Money what Beck claimed about his Midnite Vultures album in 1999: It was "a party record with dumb sounds and dumb songs and dumb lyrics."

Not that SPM's tunes sound stupid, mind you. But the music on Money, supplied by the Mexican with appearances from his arsenal of Dope House artists, does have its blissfully silly peaks and valleys. For example, the song "Boys on da Cut" begins with SPM riffing on Eazy-E's "Boyz-N-The-Hood" and ends with him saying one of the most hilariously barbed rhymes ever: "I'm back in the studio / Just like Julio / In the city where dem bitches / never won the Super Bowl." Even his moody numbers -- there are a couple on here; he couldn't completely let down his cynical-bastard fan base -- has a bass-heavy buzz, making it less depressing and more liberating. There are a couple of tracks that sound like our hometown hustler is taking a cue from Eminem's way-out verbal style, like on the paranoid rant "Medicine." But SPM should stick with his laid-back low-rider flow. It proves that even when he has a big-time label behind him, he's not going to take this shit too seriously.

The thing South Park Mexican excels at is the very thing Eightball & MJG completely overlook: If you're going to blow up, have fun with it. Fans know fame is going to change your ass somehow. Just don't go overboard and buy platinum diamond-encrusted grills for your whole family.

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Craig D. Lindsey
Contact: Craig D. Lindsey