Suga Free

Just Add Water

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Although Just Add Water is only the third album from rapper Suga Free in nine years, it is clear that he has lost none of his game in the time that's passed. The premise behind the record, as explained in the "Intro," is that it's a kind of guide to being a pimp. And while Suga Free is more than ready to give his share of advice about dealing with nosy and ungrateful women and his love for his job ("U Know My Name," for example, where he says over a smooth jazz beat, "Cuz all I really like is pimpin'," and "I only love what she do for me/I ain't getting married"), he is also willing to get a bit more personal and express some genuine emotion. "I'm Gone" and "Peace of Mind" are both about relationships that have gone wrong and that have hurt him, and in the guitar-driven "The Ranger" he's the most introspective and honest he's ever been, showing the maturity he's gained since his 1997 debut, Street Gospel. He explains his reasons for pimping in a Prince-esque falsetto over reverby, melancholy electric guitar chords, then moves into a modern rock-inspired chorus of "I don't want to be like the Lone Ranger/Traveling through the world just like a stranger." These moments of reflection are a nice complement to the rest of the album, with songs about sex and women and money, and bring a little humanity to the persona Suga Free has worked so hard to create. In terms of production, Just Add Water is as good as any G-funk record. Its beats are all smooth and clean, but there's enough diversity in instrumentation and style (the aforementioned rock found in "The Ranger" and also in "Suga Cain," the pure James Brown funk of "What U Want," complete with grunts, and the Spanish guitar in "If You Feel Me") to keep things from growing either boring or predictable. However, lyrically Suga Free's misogyny gets a little tiresome, and his rhymes have always been kind of hit or miss, which unfortunately doesn't change on this record. Although he has too many lines that involve him trying to extend single-syllable words into four or five, he makes up for this by focusing more on his singing, which has a cadence reminiscent of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. It sounds good, and ties the musical elements of the record together nicely. Just Add Water may not be the complete handbook to being a pimp, but it certainly is a kind of missive on the life of Suga Free, and is definitely worth checking out. [A DVD is also included with the CD, featuring approximately 20 minutes of clips from Suga Free's recent shows, informal interviews, and a recurring scene of a guy trying futilely to tune his guitar.]

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
blue highlight denotes track pick