Album Review: Lil Ugly Mane – Mista Thug Isolation

Posted: March 30, 2012 in Album Review, Best of 1st Q 2012, Hip Hop
Tags: , , ,


Mista Thug Isolation’s first track begins with the white noise and ringing of a bad bout of tenitus, and quickly developes into extraterrestrial feedback behind a ghoulish piano loop – something like an alien abduction inside a haunted mansion.  There’s no denying the overt homage paid to mid and early nineties Three 6 Mafia and Hypnotized Minds affiliates here, and given that Lil’ Ugly Mane is not the long-lost cousin of DJ Paul, fresh off a 17 year bid, it’s reasonable to qualify Mista Thug Isolation as “nostalgia rap.”  While most of the members of today’s southern rap scene can trace their ancestry to artists like Three 6, Eightball & MJG, and UGK, very few make music that is as sonically reminiscent of the many underground tapes from ’91-’97 Memphis (with hints of Texas not to be ignored).  There are important factors to consider before outright dismissing Mista Thug Isolation as an unintriguingly derivative niche throwback album.  The most important factors being is the fidelity to the technique and the originality of the artist’s craft, as well as the overall quality of the music itself.  While Lil’ Ugly Mane sounds like he could’ve fit in with the Hypnotized Minds posse, his delivery is not consistent with anyone in that camp, and he maintains diversity in his vocal techniques while exhibiting his own perverse sense of humor.  As a producer Lil Ugly Mane also known as Shawn Kemp – his beat making alter ego – cooks up cuts that could’ve starred on records for likes of Hypnotized Minds affiliates or even UGK or Ball & G, but the subtleties and juxtapositions across this lo-fi opus generally belie direct comparison.

“Radiation (Lung Pollution)” is perhaps the most eclectic track on the album, with a beat that moves seamlessly from a smooth and jazzy trunk rattler to pure chopped and screwed devilishness as Lil’ Ugly Mane and Supa Sortahuman exchange braggadocio and marijuana honorariums.  On “Slick Rick,” Shawn Kemp brings a combination of definitively 80’s soundscapes with a few classic 90’s southern hints, as Lil’ Ugly Mane displays his reverence for the forefather of hip hop misogyny with details of a couple of humorously self-indulgent sexual encounters.  Perhaps the album’s defining cut, “B*tch, I’m Lugubrious,” mixes a few chopped up somber keys, flutes, and some trunk rattling bass as Lil’ Ugly Mane weaves his morose sense of humor into a double-time flow with lines like “uzi aimin’ low, shoot a playa in the prostrate.”

Shawn Kemp’s production reaches new levels on “No Slack In My Mack,” with an out of tune piano loop, 808 snares, kicks and obligatory cowbell, horror movie strings, and a thunderous rolling bass rumble.  Ugly Mane steps up his lyrics with some of his wittiest one liners on “No Slack,” as well with quotes like, “Ballin’ on my mind Kareem Abdula Oblongata.”  The beat for “Twistin'” cleverly exchanges tempos to re-create the off-balance effect of promenthazine or other recreational intoxicants.  On “Cup Fulla Beetlejuice,” and “Lean Got Me Fucked Up,” Kemp and Mane do a nice job of blending the lean imagery with the horror film aesthetic that, both of which pervade the album.  Lest you believe the album is entirely dedicated to the demonic, Shawn Kemp shows that he is more than capable of crafting upbeat summer anthems on “Breeze ‘Em Out” and “Mona Lisa Overdrive,” and Lil Ugly Mane likewise shows his ability to step outside of his obsession with darker subject matter, albeit maybe not for long.

“Throw them Gunz” ends the official portion of the album, with an inspiring juxtaposition of the album’s most melodic and somber production with Ugly Mane’s best impression of Brad Jordan’s frequent paradoxical bout’s with the madness and depression that can develop when a self-aware individual inflicts the malice of hard drug sales on his own community.  Mane let’s the beat breath as much as possible, letting almost 50 seconds pass before ripping off one of his most impassioned verses on the album.  Here Lil’ Ugly Mane captures the turmoil suffered as a crack dealer, as he balances his lack of a desire to continue on, with an awareness of the hardship his lifestyle creates on the ghetto as well as his ultimate desire for self-preservation, even in at the cost of further violent destruction:

“My swagger actin’ foul / blackin’ out / rufie up my absinthe in the club, before I stagger out / live or die, I’d rather take the latter route / take the latter route / rope around my neck and kick the ladder out / there’s no need to drag it out / twenty eight grams, gotta bag ‘em out / standin’ in the rain feelin’ bad about / momma’s losing jobs over the rocks that I be passin’ out in vast amounts / as fast as I can trash an ounce/ the first to come, the last to bounce / countin’ pen just put the block into a frenzy / the glock is my appendage I will pop you out the Bentley”

All in all there are well over a dozen tracks on the album worth discussing in their own right, and if the album suffers from one particular fault it might be that at eighteen tracks, plus two bonus tracks, it stands at over 75 minutes in length.  Without clearly identifiable filler, it’s hard to enjoy the whole album in one sitting, unless you have a particularly long commute, or a nice stretch of downtime at work.  The cohesion and development of the album begs one to stay in it for the long haul, but due to some of the redundancy of material here, the album probably would’ve worked better as a 12-14 track product.  However, for a name your own price album on Bandcamp, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better value for your dollar (or 50 cents, or 10 dollars – to be honest it’s worth whatever you’re willing to pay for an album these days, if you are a fan of the 90’s south and believe in supporting DIY artists).

Comments
  1. […] Album Review: Lil’ Ugly Mane – Mista Thug Isolation […]

  2. […] other mixtapes and a multitude of guest production and features.  Unlike some of the other artists highlighted in the Best of the 1st Quarter album review series, K.R.I.T. seemingly is on eve of […]

  3. […] in the same way that for example Lil Ugly Mane jumps into mid-90′s southern shock rap on Mista Thug Isolation  If the song has a 90′s sibling, it’s A.D.O.R.’s Shock Frequency, a decent album […]

  4. […] seen over the last couple years with the likes of SpaceGhostPurrp and Raider Klan affiliates like Lil’ Ugly Mane and others.  As powerful of Burn One’s work typically has been, he’s at his best on […]

  5. […] away for some time before those collaborations took place.  Where Lil’ Ugly Mane’s Mista Thug Isolation was more beholden to its early and mid-nineties predecessors stylistically, SpaceGhostPurrp is more […]

  6. junk says:

    Good review – shawn kemp is just ugly mane’s production name though. He did all the rapping and beats, plus the cover art too i think

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