A year ago, right before his third mixtape The Overdose dropped, the future looked very bright for Atlanta rapper Pill. Hot off the heels of two fantastic mixtapes and elected to XXL Magazine’s Freshman 10, it looked like another artist was about to join the upper echelon of ATL smarty pants trap Rap. The Prescription and The Refill’s intense, yet self-reflective material introduced an elastic and dynamic voice that made it clear that he was holding it down on the corner, but he didn’t like it and wished he could leave. But even if pie slinging was a moral dilemma for Pill, it became apparent on his third tape, The Overdose that it may not have been as big a deal as he made it out to be. The Overdose made you question Pill’s motives for writing about his relation to the street. After the heart-rending stories about the bad decisions he made for the sake of his family, it was difficult to understand how he could revel so much in the filth he was trying to get out of. The Overdose, at its best, left you feeling that his life was as masochistic as the beats were badly mixed. At its worse, it meant that the tracks like “Pain In They Eyes” were just disingenuous exercises. After that, Pill signed to Maybach Music Group and like many fans, I feared that the decline would continue. Would an affiliation with Rick Ross the Bawse quiet Pill’s introspection? Would Pill instead be relegated to loud Lex Lugar beats and cartoonish lines about murdering his own with drugs?
The Diagnosis clears up some of these issues, but it still leaves some questions behind. Pill is still rapping from an aggressive, intense place, but he’s also re-incorporated his ambivalence as well as introduced some very strong concepts that we haven’t heard from him before. On “One of These Days” Pill crafts a compellingly vulnerable “Look at me now bitch” concept piece. Instead of simply projecting his sadness and anger on to the alleged gold digger he was jilted by, he gives into it and admits that he’s sincerely missing her. Even if “She was my number one fan when I had them grands, now all that’s left is these rubber bands”, and the track ends with Pill antagonizing her via E-mail, it’s clear that none of that matters. He would probably take her back if she asked.
Still, as great as tracks like “One Of These Days” and the Royale Flush 2 recycle “A Thousand Pounds” are, they often put a spotlight on the fundamental flaw of the tape: as a whole it’s a Fucking hodgepodge. “One of These Days” is immediately followed by an ITunes Deluxe cut off of Tech N9ne’s All 6’s and 7’s “Ya Killin’ Me.” The militant horror movie beat and Tech N9ne’s signature “Eminem by way of John Moschitta” flow eradicates any mood that “One of These Days” creates, it’s then followed by another down-tempo standout, the socio-political “Send One Down”, which is then followed by the quirky but half baked, girl stealer “Spendin’ the Night”, a freestyle over Nicki Manaj’s “Moment 4 Life”. This is par for the course throughout The Diagnosis. Pill bounces back and forth between moods and styles, never allowing the listener to form an entire picture. The Refill was longer at 25 tracks, but it was so cohesive that it was rarely tedious. The Diagnosis, on the other hand feels less so.. It feels like Pill just took a bunch of tracks he had left over from his album and a few freestyles and slapped them into a zip file. DJ Smallz might be credited as the host of the mixtape, but it’s hard to tell that by listening- Rick Ross’ tubby ghost haunts the entirety of the tape.
The original production is handled by mostly unknown beat makers, Grade A Muzik and Young Shun the exceptions, and they are the kinds of beats you’ve come to expect from MMG. Somewhere between Tampa’s J.U.S.T.I.C.E League and Atlanta’s Lex Luger, they are competent enough. It’s surprising that no production notes come with the tape. It’s as if they didn’t care. You have to search the net to find out that Grade A. Muzik produced “Cashin’” one of the few up-tempo tracks of note. Still, not one of these beats will make you forget about DJ Burn One’s psych-tech-funk on The Prescription, and they will certainly make you question why Grade A Muzik couldn’t have just dominated the beat making like he did on The Refill.
As a rapper it’s clear that Pill is still trying to find not only himself, but how he fits into the Maybach Music Group roster. How does a smart, Dungeon Family influenced, politically conscious rapper find himself on an Ice Cream covered label like MMG? He isn’t the Bawse’s mindlessly dogged foil like Gunplay, but he isn’t like Rick Ross. He certainly isn’t the protégé that Meek Mill is. What is he? After four releases and 3 years I still don’t know. Hopefully he’ll be able to answer these questions with his next release.