It wasn't easy being a West Coast gangsta rapper at the end of the '90s. Mack 10 will tell you that. Between 1995 and 1997, around the time "Foe Life" and "Backyard Boogie" were blowing up and Mack was putting it down for Cali with Ice Cube and WC on the Westside Connection album, everything was great -- Mack was on top of the game. But his career simmered out -- like nearly every other West Coast rapper's career -- following the Death Row empire's demise. Suddenly, around 1999/2000, the rap community seemed to view Mack with indifference. His Paper Route album (2000) was his least successful and his record deal with Priority had gone sour. Then, along came Cash Money Records, looking to extend its empire from the South to the West Coast -- much like No Limit had done unsuccessfully with Snoop Dogg a few years earlier. The resulting album, Bang or Ball, features Mack rapping alongside the Cash Money Millionaires over Mannie Fresh productions. It's somewhat of a strange pairing -- West Coast gangsta rap and the Dirty South. The synthesis works surprisingly well -- certainly better than Snoop's No Limit collaborations. Mack sounds comfortable dropping rhymes over Fresh's beats and sounds at home alongside the Big Tymers, in particular, rapping about the usual gangsta topics: sex, cars, drugs, money, player haters, boasting, and so on. "Hate in Yo Eyes," a Dr. Dre and Scott Storch track that interpolates "Stayin' Alive" for the hook, really helps Bang or Ball. It's one of Dre and Storch's better efforts and really starts the album off with plenty of club-ready energy. "Connected for Life," featuring Ice Cube, WC, and Butch Cassidy, is another obvious highlight. But the abundance of Fresh productions doesn't help Bang or Ball. Most of the in-house Cash Money producer's beats are great -- not really West Coast and definitely not Dirty South, but instead somewhere between the two. However, a few more outside productions like the Dre track would bring some more diversity to this album. And that's really what's lacking here. By the time you hit the halfway mark, the album begins to sound a bit monotonous. Still, Bang or Ball is an engaging listen, especially the first time through. Even by the time this album came out in 2001, there hadn't been many collaborations between the West Coast and the South, and surely none this ambitious and this high-profile. Give both Mack and the Cash Money Millionaires credit for taking a chance.
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
feat: Big Tymers