By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
With his two earlier albums, Mississippi: The Album and MTA2: Baptized in Dirty Water (both 2003), David Banner created one of rap's most outsized personas: big, beary, sweary, bad tempered, and totally unreserved, especially when he needs you to know how bad things are in his beloved Miss Hippy. Hates the president, too. Like a lot of big men, he's also a little weepy; tracks like "Cadillacs on 22s" are Banner's specialty--the crunk tearjerker.
Unlike mafioso- or CEO-emulating MCs, Banner's thuggery is regal. His magnanimity is immediate and real (he gives out scholarships, and his bus beat FEMA to New Orleans). His knocks are harder, his bark louder, because it's not just for him, it's for Mississippi, for "history," for you, and he's got no patience if you don't give his work its due. The sad-king routine matched Banner-the-producer. He knows his way around the stuff Southern noise ordinances are made of, the dainty pizz, G-funk keyb whine, clattering 808s, massive subwoofer heft. But the kicker was his emo touch: The guy is a sucker for faux-Slash "Patience" guitars.
On Certified, Banner wants to extend his reach, but the will to be all things to all people leaves the album flabby. The drum machines have taken Ritalin and the guitars mostly sound like Nickelback--that is, like shit. Still, the highs are high. The album's center of gravity is the cavernously horny "Play," an answer to the Ying Yang Twins' amoral "Wait." The same producer, Mr. Collipark, adds an itchy rave squiggle to the minimal bass boom while humanist Banner nixes the Twins' sexism (mostly), whispering in serious terms exactly to what intensity you will be getting off. The guests are great too, especially Twista's customary velocity on the triple-time marching-band workout "On Everything."
It's too bad more dots aren't connected between his political rage, thug talk, and sex rap, and that the charge of MTA and MTA2 is dulled, but contradictions are always a hook, and a few missteps won't faze the big man anyway.