Before Kendrick Lamar had his “Control” verse, Gucci Mane had “Birds Of A Feather,” the song where he recklessly named just about every rapper he knew and let them know exactly where they stood with him. (This was, of course, a predictor of the Twitter rampage that got Gucci kicked off of Atlantic and sent to rehab, but it’s also a dope song in its own right.) Amidst all the recriminations, though, Gucci offered this: “I still say that Project Pat is my favorite rapper.” Pat is a Memphis veteran who has no affiliation with Gucci Mane, and Gucci really didn’t have anything to gain from that endorsement, so I can only assume he said it because Project Pat actually is his favorite rapper. This makes sense. Pat is, in a lot of way, an ancestor of Gucci’s style, of those bloodthirsty threats delivered with a particular form of playfulness, those words pronounced in increasingly bizarre ways, in cadences unique to the person rapping them. Pat’s the older brother of Juicy J, and he’s been orbiting the Three 6 Mafia periphery for many years. And other than the times he’s gone off to prison, he’s stayed devilishly prolific ever since he released his first solo album 14 years ago. Pat turned 40 earlier this year, but age has not remotely diminished his ability to make idiosyncratic knucklehead anthems. And his new Cheez N Dope 2 is one of the most ridiculously, viscerally enjoyable mixtapes of 2013. If you need to bench-press any recreational vehicles this month, it should make an ideal soundtrack.
On the intro to “Mane Wattt,” mixtape host DJ Scream offers this bit of advice: “If you sensitive to this street shit, this ain’t the proper listening material for you.” He’s actually understating his case there. If you’re sensitive to anything, this ain’t the proper listening material for you. Consider, if you will “Dick Eating Dog,” which my colleague David Drake adroitly called “the most Project Pat Project Pat song in a while” on Twitter. Pat intends the title, it’s clear, as a term of endearment. The whole song is, more or less, a loving tribute, and the jusifiably monikered guest Nasty Mane has the best line on it: “Now she a bad yellow something, I call her Marge Simpson / Kill that pussy from the back like OJ Simpson.” Or if you need further evidence of the transcendent ignorance on display here, listen to “Chiefin,” which has the catchiest racist-as-fuck rap chorus (“chiefin like a injun, hey ya ya ya”) since Young Dro said “choi-oi-oing” about his Tokyo diamonds on “Rubberband Banks.” The most sensitive and emotional song on the entire tape is about how you should let your woman fuck around when you’re in prison because she’s a person, too. You’ve probably already figured out if you’re appalled or if it’s all in good fun, which is definitely how Pat means it. There are moments where he gets a certain fire in his voice — “Mask Up,” for instance, where Pat seems to take the money owed him as a matter of honor. Mostly, though, Pat sounds like he’s just fucking around, and doing it brilliantly.
Pat’s voice is one of rap’s great natural wonders. Even after all those years with Three 6, he never hammers his hooks home the way his younger brother does. Instead, his voice is a ghostly, flitting thing, one that lapses into eerie singsong and happily pushes beats around even when he’s rapping his hardest. Pat has some of the weirdest enunciation in rap. He’ll add extra syllables to words (“Project Pattah”) or inexplicably latch down on the last syllable of the word “moterfucker.” Once upon a time, he got all his minor-key bangers from DJ Paul and Juicy J, but now, he uses all the disciples those guys spawned (especially Drumma Boy, who does great work here). And he’s still staying the course. Pat was making music like this during Three 6’s relative lean years, during their Oscar-fueled crossover moment, during the embarrassing sellout period that followed, and now he’s still doing it during Juicy’s surprising resurgence. Juicy’s new prominence is the reason guys like Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller appear on Cheez N Dope 2, and he also delivers one strong verse on “Gettin Cash.” But that rebirth hasn’t led Pat to adjust his style at all. He is one of the most consistent voices in rap, and he’s still making fun, intense, hardheaded music. I am very, very happy that he’s still around, still making tapes like this one.
Download Cheez N Dope 2 here.