At forty-five, Redman (Reginald Noble) of Def Squad, Hit Squad and Red & Meth is much older than the new guard of hip-hop, but he doesn’t sound like a wheezing, beleaguered old man at all. Some of his ’90s-edge has escaped him, but for the most part, he still sounds like the same old Redman, except what relevance does he serve in today’s growing and competitive rap landscape? His reputation would suggest that it’s near impossible to picture the merry and mean emcee hopping on some erudite conscious tip, and that’s exactly what he doesn’t do on Mudface (Nov. 13), his eighth solo LP and his first album not on Def Jam Recordings. The followup to 2010’s Reggie, Mudface is instead catered by Red’s Gilla House Records, and it’s obvious the Def Jam panache is missing. The hard truth is that though his veteran hall of fame status in the game is vaulted for good, he just isn’t the hottest ticket in town anymore, and on top of that, on Mudface, he shows no new angles and just doesn’t outdo himself.
Despite its too many shortcomings, Mudface does house the fun, wild unmediated jollies Redman has always been known to get his rocks off with, but now, name-dropping celebrities, referencing pop culture, partying in the club, smoking his grade A stash, and belting out a few namesake catchword anthems is not going to make the cut. The Gilla House posse song “Undeniable” is nice, but it’s unlikely the beginning of a super group. “Bars” contains some of the best lyrics on the album, but Redman should have gone that hard lyrically on the rest of the tracks. What remains is medium well wordplay in flawless moderato obsequious to Redman’s well established formula.
Sadly, the production is also poorly innovative, a music relic of Red’s heyday that bypassed the necessary sound upgrades, giving us a trip back in time that we don’t necessarily need. This is clean content compared to the controversial hip-hop material of the present, making Red an option for today’s kids that parents might let slide. Redman pokes fun at enough new phenomena and landmark events that came about since Reggie to give Mudface an intriguingly current timeliness, and he will no doubt attract a few new fans, but in short, the album is short (thirteen tracks clocking in at thirty-four minutes) with fading fortunes, no surprises and no brilliant answer to the question, ‘So what?’ in regards to the purpose and importance of the album. Let’s just hope Blackout 3 and Muddy Waters 2 actually come out, save the man’s reputation and give him more of the respect he so deserves.