Various Artists

Suave House Records: Off Da Chain, Vol. 1

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Off Da Chain represents Suave House's attempt to market their roster of artists similar to how Ruff Ryders have done on their Ryde or Die albums and how Bone Thugs 'n' Harmony have done on their Mo Thugs albums. Suave House's anchor, the proven duo of Eightball & MJG, make brief appearances on this album, with Eightball addressing the listeners during "Intro" and "We Got Them Things for You." Besides these two rappers, there is a wide range of rappers that represent different styles, from the gangsta flow of Gillie Da Kid to the tough female attitude of Toni Hickman to the impressive rhymes of Lil' Noah. Overall, the talent on this album competes with most any other team out there, including Dr. Dre's camp and any of Suave House's neighbors in the South. Sure, there are some similar voices here, such as the 2Pac sound of Psychodrama and the Notorious B.I.G.'s wit crossed with Eminem's delivery of Lil' Noah, but what makes or breaks these songs is the beats. The sounds of Dre defines Aftermath just as Mannie Fresh's soundscapes define the sound of Cash Money and the Bomb Squad gave Public Enemy their classic sound. Unfortunately, Suave House doesn't have a sole producer, resulting in an inconsistent sound that sometimes moves into booty shakin' Southern beat territory, and other times moves into the stark eerieness of minimal piano notes and darks synths that Dre and his protege, Mel Man, have become associated with. So no matter how good Suave House's rappers may be, it takes more than rhymes to make a great rap album. Had the camp stuck with one producer and crafted a unique sound, this would be an amazing release, but with its hit-and-miss sounds, occasionally weak rapping, and its tendency to fall into played-out cliches -- "Money Sex & Drugs," "Do You Wanna Ride?," "Get Money," "Something to Bounce To," -- the album becomes average. Pick up Eightball & MJG's In Our Lifetime, Vol. 1 for a much more consistent, more impressive taste of this Southern label.

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