Album Review: A Song For You (2008) by Bizzy Bone

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With more than ten solo albums under his name, most of which are not noteworthy, Bizzy Bone (formerly of the Grammy Award-winning group Bone ThBizzy-A Song for Youugs-N-Harmony at the time of this release but rejoined the group months after) has added to his catalogue with his highly-anticipated new album, A Song For You, released on April 22, 2008 through After Platinum Records.

After releasing several mediocre to pathetic albums on many independent labels, Bizzy’s new album is very different and was given the much-needed attention to reach its peak.  But did Bizzy bring the goods?

Like every artist releasing his or her newest album, Bizzy claimed that this album would be one of his best and would be something like his second album The Gift (2001).  Was he accurate with such proclamation?  Absolutely not!  However, he was correct on the former, because this album is one of his best compared to his prior stinkers.  But he was dead wrong on the latter, because this newest release doesn’t come close to how superior and amazing The Gift is.  They shouldn’t even be put in the same category.

Nevertheless, A Song For You is a good album but has a dual personality, which is not always a good thing.  In more concrete language, the album starts off very promising – with some incredible tracks – but falls flat at midpoint which carries to the latter.

1. PRELUDE
The album opens with a 52-second well-known instrumental that serves as the intro to track two, which shares the title of the album.

2. A SONG FOR YOU
“A Song For You” features DMX and Chris Notez.  It samples rock singer-songwriter Leon Russell’s original 1970 version, written and performed by him.  This song would later become popularized by Donny Hathaway’s 1971 version and considered one of his signature songs.  In fact, this classic song has become one of the most sampled songs in music history, covered by more than 20 artists (on albums or live performances). 

So how is Bizzy’s rap version?  It’s decently good, but it doesn’t have that moving vibe like prior versions.  Accompanied by the beautiful piano arrangement to begin the song along with DMX’s growl, singer Chris Notez starts off nicely with the famous lines:  “I love you in a place, where there’s no space or time / I love you, for the life, you’re a friend of mine / And when my life is over, remember when we were together / We were alone, and I was singing this song to you.”

Bizzy comes in thereafter and delivers a muttering (a problem that shows up in following tracks) but respectable performance in verse one.  With his rugged and growling voice, DMX follows and his presence is forcefully felt.  Even though Bizzy’s and DMX’s style differ, they do a good job together and complement each other well.

However, because this song is so richly famous and covered by many, the comparisons to other versions will obviously be made, especially when the chorus and instrumental are exactly the same, excluding the verses and the few tweaks.  Honestly, Bizzy’s version does not stand a chance to most of them.  Whitney Houston’s live version in March 1991, performed for the troops and their families returning from the Gulf War, is by far one of the best ever, if not the best – including Christina Aguilera’s (via Herbie Hancock’s 45th album Possibilities) and Ray Charles’ versions.  Their versions are so touching and heart-felt, and that is what Bizzy’s version lacks.

But taking only Bizzy’s “A Song For You” into account and ignoring the fact of many other versions, this latest cover is good but doesn’t have a long-term replay value, thanks to Bizzy’s muttering.  Those who are not accustomed to Bizzy’s fast-spitting style will pick up a few lines, but will be clueless to what he is saying.  Even long time listeners will have a fairly hard time trying to decipher what he is saying; however, it doesn’t take away from the good nature of the song.

3. I’M THE ONE
This track is where the album really comes alive with the energy that Bizzy brings.  He drops a fire-style delivery due to his quick-tongue gift.  In addition, Joel Madden of Good Charlotte is featured on this track and lends his voice to the chorus – a very effective and lively hook.  If listeners are not fond of or stimulated by the previous track, this song will surely awaken them, caused by the hard-thumping/rock-like arrangement and Bizzy’s rapid-fire raps.  Energetic and upbeat, “I’m The One” will have the majority bopping his/her head with contentment.

4. MUDDY WATERS
The temperature continues with “Muddy Waters,” a touching and inspirational track where Bizzy takes the time to croon about the perils and pains of life and what people go through daily.

Instead of using a fast flow, he presents a slowly harmonious vibe with incredible lyrics that state in part:  “Your girl is cheating on you, you finna go to jail / now you just lost your job, your house is up for sale / your friend just passed away, before you said good bye / your son’s going to war and you still don’t know why / your mom contracted aids and right before she died, she couldn’t speak a word but she can blink her eyes / see she was paralyzed and you so scared to cry / you wanted to show your strength and tell her the LORD provides / the church is taking money, selling granny a dream / she wanna go to heaven, think she can get in with green….”

This song can touch every single soul, for what he states in his lyrics is very true and relatable.  If one does not relate to some of what he mentions, the theme of struggle can not be refuted, because everyone goes through struggles.  Everyone will have bad days (or face the constant struggles) and deal with the most painful situation because that is what life renders.  His verses are spectacular and realistic in the world today.

 This song is profoundly deep.  Lyrically, “Muddy Waters” is one of the best performances by Bizzy.

5. MONEY
The temperature of the album continues to rise with the leading single “Money,” a track that features one-time Bone Thugs-N-Harmony foe, Twista.  Squashing their beef, Twista appeared on Bone’s 2007 gold album Strength & Loyalty (“C-Town”); thereafter, Bone appeared on his 2007 album Adrenaline Rush 2007 (“Ain’t No Hoes”).  And again, Twista collaborates with another Bone affiliate and he brings it accordingly.

The fine rhythm (rough guitar cords) and chorus (very catchy) are invigorating, but Bizzy does nothing to aid them and starts off the song awfully sloppy.  His verse makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, nor does it have any merit for evaluation.  It’s purely nonsense.

Twista, who is also known for his fast raps, surprisingly jumps on verse two with a rather slow flow, but quickly switches up to his usual speed-bomb style to drop an amazingly blazing verse.

Bizzy redeems himself and concludes the song by dropping a soundly quick verse himself.  Considering the swiftness they present, people may think that they are trying to outdo each with their quick tongues, which is questionable.  If they were trying to outshine each other is irrelevant because one thing is clear:  Bizzy is fast and Twista is fast; they complement each other adequately well and executed a very good track.

6. WHAT HAVE I LEARNED
At this juncture, track six rises the album’s temperature to a deadly level that would assure death to anyone who encountered such heat.  This song is truly a beast and Bizzy brings his finest by delivering a verbal assault.  He is on point and in no way does he disappoint.

This song has three outstanding verses with a few spiritual overtones that some would be unaware of unless they listen closely to his velocity-driven rhymes.  This is the type of energy long-time fans have been waiting for, and Bizzy delivers the goods with a near flawless execution.  “What Have I Learned” is a raw, gangsta, and tight track.  In slang idiom, this track is OFF THE HOOK!  From Bizzy’s lyrics to his flow, from the production to the overall vibe, everything about this track is perfect and could not be any better.

How good is this song?  It is contagious enough to cause a paralyzed person to find some way to shake a leg; that’s how powerful this track is, so don’t be surprised if you put it on repeat and let it ride.

7. MERCY MARY
Mercy…Mercy…Mercy.  This is where things start turning bad, bringing the album’s good vibe to a halt.  He clearly struggles trying to find his once exciting fast flow that he once embodied, a unique style that was so pure and refined.  The fast rapping on this track is sloppy and rushed.  For the hook, he combines two old songs: “Mercenary,” an unreleased track, and “Carry My Baby” from his 2005 album Speaking In Tongues.

He stumbles, sputters, and mutters through majority of the track.  The first verse is nearly impossible to ascertain what he is rapping about.  This song is bad but Bizzy thinks otherwise.  After he completes his incoherent nonsense, he states: “I like this sh!t, man.”  He later shouts out Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (mentioning of all the members), 7th Sign, Mo Thugs, etc.

If this track had a voice, it would beg for mercy.  If this track had legs, it would run away as fast as Bizzy raps and escape his painful delivery.

8. I TRULY BELIEVE
“I Truly Believe” is no better.  It’s not terrible, but it’s certainly not a good song.  He sings (or tries to) on the track but fails to capture that pleasant vibe, which shows how much he has declined vocally through the years.  He struggles to find his smooth voice that made him popular and unforgettable.  The only bright spot comes via a female vocalist with a lovely voice, singing in background.

At the song’s closure, Bizzy starts laughing out of control for some unknown reason as if somebody is tickling him, which raises the question:  How serious did he take the song when recording it?  Who knows?  But one thing “I Truly Believe” is this:  he toyed with the song and thought it would not make the final cut.  At best, this track is average.  Two words sum up this track:  boring and insipid.

9. BALLIN’
“Ballin” is surely better than the two prior tracks, but it does have one major problem – caused by the guest appearance of Jim Jones who delivers a slobber of mess.  He doesn’t ruin the entire song, because Bizzy’s overall performance is commanding.  However, he does ruin the center of the song with his garbage verse and lethargic delivery.  It’s really a tragedy.

What is more devastating is the fact that Trae, originally featured, was removed for the likes of Jim Jones.  And that choice was a big mistake – and a blatant disrespect to Trae.  This is a great track with Trae and the verse he drops is lively, but it diminishes with Jim Jones.  Those who collectively made the choice and allowed him to even breathe on “Ballin” should be embarrassed for such decision.    

Removing Trae’s verse was fatuous and ill-advised.  With the additional of Jim Jones, a once great song is reduced to a good song.

10. I NEED YOU
What was Bizzy thinking?  “I Need You” is a pop-ish rendition of the soul classic song “Try Me.”  The song fails and the sample renders no help.  In fact, the sample is an annoyance along with Bizzy’s voice.  He sounds dreadful; he lollygags and whines throughout.  The chorus is unbearable and a headache.  This is one of those songs on an album that people usually skip due to its annoying and uninteresting nature.

As a result, the song flops.  Is it really that bad?  Yes.  It is the worst song on the album.     It is too pop-like and corny.  In brief, this track is pathetically bad and needs no further evaluation.

11. HARD TIMES
Featuring Chris Notez, who delivers a soulful performance, “Hard Time” represents a nice track.  The arrangement of piano chords, backed up with a subdued drum rhythm, presents an ambiance of calmness.  This track has a nice feel to it, but Bizzy tries to ruin that by screaming out and giggling in the background with no provocation.  An unknown artist(s) also shows up on the track momentarily.

Bizzy is not impressive, but he’s okay enough.  What makes this song pleasant is the bridge by Chris Notez (his singing is smooth), backed with a serene production.

12. MEMORIES
The laid-back production continues on “Memories.”  And yes, this track is very touching and heart-felt.  He takes it to a personal level, a level that deals with his early years in Cleveland, Ohio with his Bone Thugs-N-Harmony brothers.

Rather than delivering a conventional hook, this track is embedded with three different hooks (from an old interview) that deal with his memories.  This song is really a Bone tribute and Bizzy makes that clear with the unique hooks.

The first hook concerns Flesh-N-Bone:  “This dude on the bus and … was effing with me ‘cause I was young, and you know what I’m saying? Flesh um stood his ass up.  Flesh is like crazy, you know what I’m saying?  He did about 15 years in prison and he’s still doing prison time.  Flesh sat his ass down … pulled the seat back … and this is a big [expletive].  Dude didn’t say a [expletive] thing.”  Bizzy’s animated voice is quite funny.

The second hook concerns Krayzie Bone:  “Krayzie Bone, I love that dude and he’s always been like my favorite rapper, when we were walking the streets it was him and I together.  We were the only people that would walk and everybody else was in the house.  My people say he couldn’t stay over there; he didn’t want to go to his house, so we walked the streets and drunk … the entire night.  I don’t know if you remember that …. so it was a beautiful thing.”   

The third hook concerns Bone as a whole and Jay-Z:  “One time, E kidnapped my ass and he took me to New York.  He took me to a casino and I had the opportunity to battle Jay-Z.  And Dame Dash was there, and I said Krayzie Bone’s lyrics.  And we was battling for $30.  Dude said I ain’t never heard no … like this before; take the money.  And he said who the eff are you.  I said man, we Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (double echo).”

 After reminiscing about his past memories, he gives a shout out to his Bone brothers:   “Layzie Bone, Krayzie Bone, Wish Bone, Flesh-N-Bone locked up in jail, I love you, baby; I see you when you get there …”

What really make this song appealing are the different breaks, aided by segments of an old Bizzy interview.

13. REAL (freestyle)
The parenthesized title says it all, freestyle.  Supported with a simple beat and a featured singer, Bizzy’s freestyle is actually decent.  His verses are delivered with an angry voice.  The chorus itself is catchy and forceful:  “I’m a real [expletive] ‘til they kill me!”

Interestingly, he sounds like the late Tupac Shakur to some extent as he screams out.

Given the freestyle nature of this track (that is, unprepared verses), “Real” is a bit sloppy and shouldn’t be on an album, but it’s decent.  Had he delivered conventional verses, the possibility of it being a good track would be evident.

14. CROSSROADS (Outro)
This closure to the album is quite somber and intriguing, and once again Bizzy throws another shout out to his Bone brothers.  Thereafter, he harmonizes, “they keep on telling me that I’m gone gone gone.”  With the numerous mentions throughout the album, it is safe to say that he is trying to reach out to his Bone Thugs-N-Harmony brothers.

After careful scrutiny, Bizzy released a good album.  The strength of A Song For You comes from track 2 to 6; thereafter, the album has its own multiple identities with a few unremarkable tracks.

This major release reveals one thing: the possibility of Bizzy ever releasing an outstanding solo album again is very slim.  The reason stems from his occasional muttering style.  He has been stricken by something I have termed, The Utterance of Detrimental Mutters.  What is it?  In brief, it simply means that his mutters are detrimental and damage the overall nature of the song.  Moreover, his mutters bring about a confusing delivery of lyrics, making it hard (and at times impossible) to understand what he’s saying.

With that said, the effort that Bizzy presents on this album is great, but he is not that outstanding artist he once was.  He will deliver that brilliance occasionally, but a constant barrage of brilliance throughout an entire album seems unlikely.  One of the best tracks is “What Have I learned” (Outstanding!); the worst track is “I Need You.”

Bizzy’s discography is rather lengthy with more than 10 albums, and A Song For You is a very good addition.  On a scale of 1 to 10, this recent release receives a 7.

Anyone who claims this album is excellent (or praise it too highly) is crazy and fails to take into account the dreadful style that Bizzy renders on a few tracks and the questionable songs that made the album.  Nonetheless, the album is good and gets a thumbs up.

***
[Originally published April 22, 2008 on now-defunct Examiner.com]

 

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