TEOP A.K.A. MYER LANSKI: The Re-Up
For far too much of this 36-track behemoth, Teop ("poet" backward, East Baltimore native Brevard McCullough to the government) barks the sort of thug bravado and misogyny that is as riveting as toilet paper. Toss a rock and you'll hit a knucklehead spitting about bitches taking one in the ass and one in the mouth, 'Pac still being dead, how it's do or die and you've got to survive in these streets, [insert gunshot blare as percussive break here], and rhyming "trigger" with, well, you know.
It's not that Teop can't snarl and growl; it merely sounds ill-fitting on him, like Michael Dukakis in that tank. That fact is glaringly awkward on "Can't Handle This," when Skarr Akbar guests and scowls his switchblade-sharp darting lines. That's what a take-no-prisoners MC sounds like. Teop sounds, well . . . when he freestyles over Nas' "Black Republicans," dropping himself between Nas' and Jay-Z's verses, his "'hood activist" feels like a grass-roots organizer trying to go toe-to-toe with a pair of campaign veterans. Elsewhere he runs down what he's been through--blood on his hands, having to sell powder to make ends meet, the usual--but his big, deep, beefy voice still sounds like he has a little baby fat around it, not quite soul-sucked by the streets just yet. When Biggie casually sighed, "And I'm robbing bitches, too," in "Gimme the Loot," you felt like he meant that shit. When Teop boasts, "Let 'em beg for their life/ bat to their kneecaps," you suspect he simply likes the way it looks on paper.
And while that glimmer of humanity spells doom for an MC who only has his bitches and money past to peddle, it's what gives Teop a wealth of promise. When he's not trying to sound like any number of today's stars--T.I., Jay-Z, and, most often, Nas--you get a sense of whom Teop himself might be: a goofy but sharp MC with a great deal of respect for what he still doesn't know yet. The hypnotic "How Down tha Hill Fell" is a pulsating bit of neighborhood nostalgia, as narrated by a young man who didn't witness back in the day with his own eyes but heard stories from a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy who was there. On the instantly catchy "Does What It Do," Teop rhymes at a sprinter's pace over an almost downtempo beat, and the effect is positively enthralling. And he absolutely--and wonderfully--murders Beyoncé's "Irreplaceable" by switching up the gender roles and taking the piss out of it on "Unreplaceable," down to a hilarious "to the left, to the left" bridge. It's admittedly a winning joke, but in one song it spotlights a broader range and wit than any 15 tracks about hustling. Right now you suspect Teop is a smart and more interesting man than he's willing to let himself appear as a rapper, but if he allows himself to reveal the full depth of his personality in rhyme, then, damn: watch out.
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