The fall of the No Limit Records is often attributed to the rise of Cash Money which seems like an easy conclusion- young lions beat old ones. The problem with this theory is that rap isn’t anything like boxing. There is never a revolution in Hip Hop. No, No Limit fell because their music began to lose its fun. The richer they got, the more violence and criminal activity haunted them. The more recognition the received, the more they were derided as fluff. People enjoyed No Limit in its heyday because it was fun. When it stopped being fun, Hip Hop fans switched to Cash Money because they were more jovial, triumphant, enjoyable and outlandish.
When I first heard Fiend on songs with Curren$y, I slipped into the mindset that anyone sounds good next to Curren$y. Spitta doesn’t hunger to overshadow his guests, and he could find chemistry with the Muppet Swedish Chef on a track if he needed too. I was incorrect; however, and Fiend has emphatically proven it. Releasing multiple mixtapes of original material is not a widely recommended tactic, especially for lyrical MC’s. Quality over quantity has always been suggested, the GZA style MC sits in his basement for weeks finding the right words. MC’s like Curren$y and Fiend (now under the moniker International Jones) blow more then they spit, they don’t measure each word tirelessly; they breeze happily through verses taking the listener with them. This doesn’t make them any less valuable: Kurtis knew how to Blow too.
I have two main concerns when it comes to mixtapes: too much and too many. Life Behind Limo Glass is only 15 tracks long which is admirably sized, but the features are a key drawback. Cornerboy P, Dee-Low, Smoke DZA, Mia X, Trademark da Skydiver, Nesby Phips, Big Sant, Strong Arm Steady, and Dice, they are all just too much. If you can’t fit them all at the table with you at Denny’s they can’t all be on your mixtape.
From the first track, “Crooz” Fiend sets the tone “She call me her diver/ scuba get them hard to reach spots like a loofa/baby girl such a troopa!”On every bold word his voice exaggerates the sound until it finishes in a chuckle. This is about 55 seconds into the song. Fiend is not Joe Budden. He isn’t doing this to bear his naked soul to you, but to dress you in his attitude. The samples are warm, the hooks are rich and swaying, and his voice is deep, scratchy and 70’s soul inspired. The character of International Jones has to blow over smooth horns, and slow but abiding bass lines that clap and stomp. He fits in so well as the JETS crew Barry White- obsessed with Eagle references and confidence.
The samples define the songs a lot of times. On tracks like “Roll it Up” and “Street Knowledge”, Fiend jumps in over them through the headphones, feeling natural without freestyling. He also has serious moments that can surprise you like the beginning of “When the Smoke Clears”. “I wish I could heal the ill/ alleviate the word destroy and just build/ happiness bring joy and peace where there is none/we all feel God whether Jewish, Muslim or Christian.” It seems like something from a different MC as I read it, but it rolls off the tongue just as any of his other verses. Smoker knowledge is truth sometimes. The tracks production is intense, with impactful bass and tight sampling that attempt to test his skills, but Fiend’s slight effort gives one of the year’s best tracks. He still manages to laugh as he promises to give up lames for lent.
Only “Hotels and Champagne” feels like the ghost of No Limit visiting and it’s pleasant. It showcases his voice and ability to be pleasantly raunchy. The height of coarse discourse is achieved on “Feel So Good”. When Mia X brings back her straight up sex talk, she not only keeps up with International Jones, but sets the pace with lines like “High enough to shit on they head.” The chorus seems like a thousand voices smoothly meeting together while the drums beat out lightly behind them.
A lot of the time Fiend wants to leave us in disbelief, “To cool to be cool right?” he opens with on “Noir”, but I don’t believe it. This is the hard work of a real artist taking full advantage of a second window of opportunity, and anyone who remembers him will observe this as the celebratory parade in honor of his grind. It’s almost a complete rebirth in one download. If only there were less annoying co-stars.
you can download this mixtape here
– Dan O