taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

reviews of local & state music CDs


Death of a Pop Star

Most know rapper David Banner from some less-than-cerebral noisemakers like “Get Like Me,” “Play” or “Like A Pimp,” which would make a sudden sharp left into conscious hip hop come off a bit hypocritical. Even the most hopeless addict can have a moment of clarity, which is exactly what his collaboration with celebrated producer 9 th Wonder comes off as. Death of a Pop Star pairs two Grammy winners from opposite ends of the Southern hip-hop spectrum with the ultimate goal of creating something foreign to them both, but the chemistry they discover in the process feels innate. Originally slated for a Nov. 9 release when the project was simply intended to be a mixtape, the conceptual piece on the death of black music bloomed beyond both artists’ expectations and grew into a full-fledged debut album. At only nine tracks (bumped to 12 in the Best Buy exclusive edition), a longer running time would have been ideal. Banner and 9 th Wonder, however, make the most of what they have. Opener “Diamonds On My Pinkie” finds Banner riffing on his old self through the title, but make no mistake, his lyricism is more Supreme Clientele than Mississippi: The Album. His lyrics from the out set are heavy with social criticism like “Boy’s Club closing while they building PF Chang’s,” while 9th Wonder’s sparse, haunting beat leaves just enough empty space for the austerity of Banner’s verses to have maximum impact. They can be dark, and a mentalhealth professional might read into some of Banner’s lyrics as indicative of the emcee’s struggle with underlying issues. “I struggled with my lust’ I struggled with my drinking’ I struggled with this weed and my sins I’m sinking” Banner professes on “The Light.” He no doubt takes several steps forward in his lyrical substance, but 9th Wonder’s production on this alone is reason enough to give it a listen. His beats hold together some of the off-topic guest spots like Ludacris on “Be With You” and Erykah Badu on “Silly,” but are the perfect vehicle to get lost in some of Banner’s heavier messages. For a mixtape, it’s an outstanding debut, but for an album, you really want more than nine tracks to get a feel of what this duo is capable. That said, The most important thing about Death of a Pop Star is that it’s the birth of a real lyricist, even one that’s been here all along.