Hip hop fans were given a real treat three years ago from Heath McNease. The Heath McNease Fan Club Meets Tonight was his first outing with 7 Spin Music, and it showcased an incredible talent for making top notch hip hop songs, as well as displaying some of his singer/songwriter skills. The "ferocious little monster" is giving his fans a double dose of the tunes on May 1 on Amazon (May 4 for iTunes) with two full-length albums: one full of singer/songwriter tunes, and one packed with hip hop jams. The latter of the two is called The Gun Show.
While the album is devoted to his hip hop songs, there are three songs interspersed throughout the album that are of the singer/songwriter variety that, though good songs, would've been more appropriately-placed if they were on Shine On as opposed to The Gun Show. The first of the three is "Everything Goes." It does have a little hip hop vibe in it, however (a hip hop style beat with some turntable scratches and samples), which may be why it was placed on The Gun Show. But it's still a little odd. "Thank You" is a song to a girl that broke McNease's heart, but he thanks her for showing him what a broken heart feels like. There's also an alternate version of "I Will Live," a song available on Shine On. This version has different guitar licks and includes a drum beat, whereas the Shine On version features more strums than licks, a piano and no drums. Other than those things, everything else is the same. None of the three acoustic-styled songs are bad, it just seems odd for them to be placed with the hip hop songs when McNease has a whole singer/songwriter album released on the same day.
The hip hop in McNease's debut was quality, with versatile flows and loads of quirkiness, though he often displayed his heart through all of it. The Gun Show offers more of the excellent raps that were so underappreciated the first time around. Through his delivery, you can hear bits and pieces of other emcees. Not as rip offs of them, but rather as possible influences. "Nerd Out (12 Point Power Sword)," with its geeky references to Napoleon Dynamite, Lord of the Rings, Twilight and others, resembles some of the cliche KJ-52 raps, but in other songs, it's not a difficult thing to find influences from manCHILD, John Reuben, Pigeon John and Playdough. None of McNease's songs are copycat jams; rather, they can just sit on the same level. And speaking of Playdough, the hip hop extraordinaire helped with production on the opening track, "Chalk Outline," and provided guest vocals on the comical title track, adding a great touch to the songs. Other producers are lesser-knowns like Incorporated Elements and For Beats' Sake, but McNease also gets a little help from Deepspace 5 member Freddie Bruno and McNease's labelmates Red Umbrella. Odd to have a pop rock group producing a hip hop album, but it works well, given that Red Umbrella is credited as co-producing one of the best tracks on the album, "Space Cowboy."
If you're familiar with Fan Club..., you know that McNease was blessed to have guest spots by three of the best emcees in the game: Playdough, Pigeon John and RedCloud. Well, it went over so well last time, that lightning is striking twice, and they all make appearances on The Gun Show as well. Playdough joins McNease in talking about how strong and muscular they are in "The Gun Show" while providing a few laughs in the process. Though Playdough didn't do production for this track, the music definitely gives off a vibe like he did. Pigeon John shows up for the party beats of "American, Idle," proclaiming "I'm too alive to be idle and I don't believe in yesterday, I don't plan survival but bet your life I plan to stay." As with Playdough's track, Pigeon John showed up for a song that fits his style perfectly. The same can be said for RedCloud's verse in "Zion," which has a quasi-reggae style of music in the background. He comes in after a little guitar solo, and he rips up the track the way only RedCloud can. It seems as though McNease and the guests picked the perfect tracks for them to appear on, making them not just random guest appearances, but perfectly executed appearances.
"Rockbox" is a great track near the end of the album that displays McNease's fantastic rapping ability. He doesn't utilize his quick flow, really, but his word choices and rhyme scheme are near flawless. Other songs in which he shines are on top of the somewhat funky beats of "Disco Biscuits (Matt Foley's Return)," "Zion," and the quick-witted "Space Cowboy," the chorus of which takes a page from Steve Miller Band's "The Joker," saying "They call me the space cowboy, the new gangster of love." "Space Cowboy" may be the best song on the entire album. His flow is quick and tight, and the beat and guitar behind it is thick. "Makeshift Doxology" doesn't have an impeccable flow or anything, but the message is powerful, coming from the perspective of an alcoholic trying to come to terms with God, in the end realizing he needs help, as he surrenders his all to God. The music is low key, with a quiet drum beat and some orchestral piano, resembling the music of "Train Song" by the hip hopper Listener. It's a great final track.
There's not a whole lot to not like about The Gun Show. The beats are great, the guest emcees are spot on, and though there's a lot of silliness to be found, the necessity of God's presence in everything is acknowledged by McNease. My only real complaint is the inclusion of "Nintendo Thumb" as a bonus track. Now, don't get me wrong, it's a good song. But first, it was already released on McNease's debut, and second, if it was to be included again, there might have been a better place on the album to put it than after such a serious song as "Makeshift Doxology," which would have been a much better song to have as the last one. But, "Nintendo Thumb" is still a great song that serves as a tribute to NES games like Contra, Super Mario, Kid Icarus, The Legend of Zelda and lots more.
It seems like it's been a long three years since the Heath McNease fan club met that night, but the payoff is worth it. Nearly thirty new tracks to enjoy will make the beginning of May very good for his fans. It's only in digital form right now, so Amazon and iTunes are the places to go for some fresh new hip hop this week. McNease is back and he's satisfied my ears once again.- Review date: 4/30/10, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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