"Apex Predator" is the debut studio album by Long Beach, California emcee and Slaughterhouse member Crooked I. The album features guest appearances from Tech N9ne, K-Young and Tena Jones as well as production by Cardo, Tabu, Mr Porter and others. It was released on July 30, 2013 via Treacherous C.O.B. and Empire Distribution.
1) YODO - The first song on the album features a hard-hitting instrumental, provided by Snaz, that has some menacing synths layered over deep bass drums. The beat has a dark vibe to it that compliments the violent tone of the song nicely. Lyrically Crooked I comes correct, rapping about getting caught slippin' and how his motto is You Only Die Once. His voice and flow are more aggressive than usual, but I'm not sure it really works since it makes his delivery feel choppy. This is just ok for me. It's not terrible, but I was hoping for a better start to the album, especially since there are only 11 tracks.
2) Vegas On Biz (featuring K-Young) - This track starts off with Crooked I stating that his debut album may be his last, which is definitely possible given how long it took him to actually drop this album. Shit was approaching Detox status for a while there. Anyways, the instrumental on this track is produced by Jonathan Elkaer and it's actually pretty dope. The beat is smooth and Crooked I sounds much better over it than he did the previous song, spitting some braggadocio rhymes about his paper stacks and his organized crime trips to Las Vegas. K-Young just comes in for the chorus, but he sounds pretty good as well. Nothing mind blowing, but I like this.
3) Let Me Get It (featuring Tech N9ne) - The instrumental on this track, courtesy of Luxe Beats, feels more like a Strange Music production than anything I was expecting Crooked I to have on his album. That being said, the beat is still pretty dope, with some threatening synths and dark drums. Both Crooked I and Tech N9ne (who just dropped his latest album "Something Else") absolutely destroy the beat, kicking some dope verses in rapid-fire flows. This is probably my favorite song on here so far.
4) Apex Predator (My Gun Go) - I was really hoping for some classic West Coast sounding production on this album, but so far I have been disappointed in that regard. Not to say the beats are bad, I was just expecting a totally different sound for some reason. Anyways, the instrumental on the this track is produced by Street Runner and Sarom and its got an energetic Southern feel to it. Crooked I is really spitting on here as well, flowing effortlessly over the epic sounding production. Not bad.
5) Nobody Cares (featuring Tena Jones) - The beat on this song, courtesy of Tabu, lowers the tempo a bit while still providing a dope backdrop full of ambient synths, electric guitars and deep bass drums. Crooked I rhymes about how the streets are full of pain and misery, but nobody seems to really care. This sharply contrasts the previous song in which Crooked was threatening to show us how his "gun goes bang", but at least he is trying to mix up the subject matter a bit. Still, the beat is dope, Crooked I comes correct and there is a positive message to the song.
"And I ain't sayin that this rap is perfectNice.
But I'm strapped with purpose
Trying to get past the surgeons in that emergency room
But if I don't get past the caskets surface
Just write this shit on my tomb
6) Crowns - This track begins with a short sample of Jay Z's "Never Change" before fading into an odd Tabu instrumental that has a funky, keyboard-driven beat that I'm not really feelin' that much. Crooked I sounds pretty good, but I'm not really diggin this one at all. The song ends with Crooked saying "I think they had enough Isaac" before the beat fades out. I couldn't agree more. Next.
7) A Lady Fell In Love - Jonathan Elkaer returns with a slower synth instrumental that is more mellow than anything else on the album so far. Crooked I gets a bit introspective on here and raps about his conflicting emotions of wanting to settle down with a women while lusting after other females at the same time. I'm not really feelin' the chorus too much, but Crooked I really flows his ass off on the second verse. Not bad.
8) No Sleep Gang - Cardo comes through with yet another of the synth and 808 heavy instrumentals that have been so prevalent throughout the album so far. The beat is pretty good, but I know Cardo can come harder than this. It's not terrible, but he's made much better stuff in the past. Lyrically, Crooked I spits about the work him and his team put in while everyone else is sleeping. He seems to have dumbed down his lyrics a bit for this album, which is sad because he was one of my top emcees a few years back. Oh well.
9) Sumthin From Nuthin - Crooked I raps over a self-produced instrumental that is more of a looped beat-box session than a full instrumental. True to the title of the song, Crooked rhymes about starting from the bottom and making something out of nothing. Not bad.
10) Crook n Porter - Mr. Porter stops by to provide a dope instrumental for Crooked I to spit some mixtape-esque one-liners over. The beat is pretty good, with some energetic pianos and strings, and Crooked I comes correct for the most part. There are a few weak punchlines interspersed throughout, but this is still pretty dope.
11) Tell Them MF's We Made It - The final track, produced by Tabu, is very similar to the weak instrumental that he provided for "Crowns" in that its very repetitive and got on my nerves after a while. So Just Blaze is executive producing the new Slaughterhouse album and this is the best production Crooked I could get? I know Tabu produced the stellar "Art of Peer Pressure" off of Kendrick Lamar's "Good Kid, MAAD City", but I'm just not feelin' this one. Crooked must feel the same since he is on cruise control throughout the track. Bleh.
I'm going to rate the album
3 / 5
because it's got a few bangers on it, but there are some mediocre tracks as well. I was hoping for some smooth West Coast G-Funk instrumentals, but most of the tracks have a more Southern trap music sound (which is the norm nowadays I guess). They are not terrible, just not what I was hoping for. Crooked I himself is on point for most of the songs, but it's evident he dumbed down some of his lyrical content to go for a more mainstream sound on a few of the tracks. His flow is on point, but the lyrics took a hit on some songs. It's a shame too since Crooked I used to be one of my favorite emcees from the "Chronic 2001" to "Slaughterhouse" eras. Oh well, maybe the album will grow on me a bit. For now, it's just an average release.