At the end of June, Mike Steyels with HipHop DX posted a scathing review of UGS 4 Life’s compilation album Fxck Tha Lamestream. It was a surprisingly savage attack on the album that assigned it an overall whopping rating of 1.9 out of 5. Was the author biased or simply having a bad day? Judging from the fact that the community assigned it an overall 4.52 out of 5, nearly a perfect score, I’m going to assume one of those reasons explains the lowball rating.
On another note, maybe the reviewers lack consistency. After all, the same organization that posted the article claiming Fxck Tha Lamestream “simply travels backwards” and “doesn’t venture into new territory” also spoke highly of King Combs 90’s mixtape, which, you know, travels backward and doesn’t venture into new territory. It praised Ace Hood’s extravagantly long and overwhelmingly packed Trust the Process II: Undefeated, despite admitting that it was “difficult to make it through the entire thing,” and said that we should “let him do him.” Meanwhile, the article chastises UGS 4 Life for doing them and focusing on a compilation that Steyels claims “misinterprets their ethos.” Apparently, only some artists are allowed to focus on pursuits about which they are passionate and revert back to making the kind of music that existed before mumble rappers popped up and reeled people in with hard-to-hear elementary school lyrics.
The real question is, is Fxck Tha Lamestream really as awful as Steyels claims it is?
The answer, quite simply, is no.
Fxck Tha Lamestream beings with a dark introduction that explains that the ensuing compilation is not an attack on today’s youth, but a fight against the mainstream, a desire to return to a time when bars were more important than bullshit. It is an assault on the media outlets pushing up and coming generations to listen to the kind of bullshit that promotes taking too much Xanax and dyeing your hair to look like Rainbow Dash. As someone who enjoys both mainstream and underground music, I completely get it. I was devastated when one of my favorite underground rap groups slowly began to focus more on being in the spotlight and less on the music they were delivering to their fans. The creative, dark horrorcore lyrics began slowly being replaced by repetitive, low-level rhymes over dubstep sounding beats. This developed into songs that mirrored the lack of artistic ability of mainstream mumble rappers because it is what is being perceived as popular. I mean, their albums were only a few words away from just being “yeah, ayyyy” (bonus points if you can guess which artist I have in mind who sang those lyrics for a majority of their songs – good luck).
That is one area in which Fxck Tha Lamestream is killing it – the lyrics. Steyels dogged on the rhyme scheme of songs like “Let’s Ride,” but the fact that he could only provide a few examples only shows that he really didn’t have anything to criticize. Anyone that knows me knows that I am a sucker for well-crafted lyrics and the level of secondary rhyming that occurs throughout the album is absolute fire. While other rappers are out there rhyming one syllable words with themselves, there is mastery of complex rhyming peppered throughout this album. While some people think secondary rhyming is a cop-out because it’s not a real rhyme, it’s actually harder to accomplish than it sounds. Since the words are not a direct rhyme, like “you” and “two” would be, delivery and pronunciation are extremely important when it comes to spitting a secondary rhyme. The more complex the word, the harder it becomes to convince listeners that it rhymed. This is a problem that Fxck Tha Lamestream does not have. I was easily convinced that words like “victim” and “reptilian” rhymed, along with other tricky rhymes like “deacon” and “reaper” simply because they were so expertly written into the verses and masterfully delivered.
These rhymes are also powerfully delivered over clean instrumentals and beats that remind me of the good ol’ days. As I was listening, I kept imagining myself surrounded by my old friends. We used to love making each other mixtapes and listening to them together at one another’s houses, oftentimes while we tried on each other’s clothes and begged our parents to let us stay the night at someone’s house. It seems like it’s difficult these days to come across new music that sends me hurtling right back to my childhood and immediately conjures up fond memories of sunshine, good food, and good music. I can, of course, listen to old music when I want that feeling, but it’s extremely refreshing when I come across something I haven’t heard before and it is able to instill a deep feeling of nostalgia to me.
In addition to that, amidst the clean instrumentals, nostalgic beats, and well-written verses lies messages about the problems that still plague our society. This is not rap about fucking hoes and eating ass. The first three songs (not including the “Intro” track) are perfect examples of this. “Let’s Ride” addresses the topic of how easily it is to be scooped up and put into prison, as well as a later track that goes into more depth called “Street Reporter.” “Keep Shit Real” talks about how high school fed us dreams of being able to reach for the sky, but so many are still just trying to find ways to pay their bills and stay safe in the hood. “Battlefield” introduces issues about poverty and being underestimated because of someone’s background. Another song I really enjoyed was “Addicted,” which I originally thought was going to be about being addicted to drugs. It was a surprising twist when the verses were dedicated to being addicted to the rap game and promoted working your ass off to get to a better place and manning up to get the hustle going.
Other songs like “Start tha Fire,” “Heartless,” and “That Feeling” sought to hype me up for my day, providing energizing beats and diverse topics that made me want to go ham in my car while I was bumping it. Meanwhile, the song “Swaggotz” was everything I always say about whack rappers these days. Where Steyels made fun of the lyrics and claimed it was “every early 2000’s joke [being] resurfaced,” it was an accurate comment on dress-wearing, skinny jean rapping swag rappers. They’re straight up clowns. As a female, that shit drives me crazy. I mean, I’m not about to fuck a guy who wears the same clothes as me and I will readily admit that I’ve dipped out on dudes in a heartbeat who decided to snag a pair of my jeans from my house and wear them. Yes, they were dope ass jeans, but they were not meant to hold a penis inside of them.
The last issue I want to address is the fact that Steyels claims the compilation was “plagued with Bad Bone Thugs Impressions.” Um, where? Was it the occasional fast rapping? Are we just saying now that anyone who raps fast is doing a Bone Thugs and Harmony impression? There was nothing that sounded like them. Nothing. Maybe Steyels needs to expand his selection of music so that he has more valid comparisons to make.
Overall, if you couldn't tell, I thought Fxck Tha Lamestream was a well-written, thoughtfully crafted, skillfully produced compilation album that addressed real-world issues while also making a statement about today’s mainstream media outlets. I’m not one to give perfect scores, but I was impressed with the quality of work and happily rate this a 4.7 out of 5.
That’s all for this album! Don’t forget to check out my other reviews! If you want one of your performances, albums, or songs reviewed, please feel free to shoot me a message on my Facebook page!