DJ Envy

Desert Storm Mixtape:

Blok Party, Vol. 1

Desert Storm Records

While Jason Kidd was leading his team to last year’s NBA Finals, Stephon Marbury, the player for whom Kidd had been traded, was getting ripped for being inferior. On DJ Envy’s Desert Storm Mixtape: Blok Party, Vol. 1, in the midst of a rap album, Marbury uses an interlude to respond to his critics. Yet on an album so musically diverse, Marbury’s monologue doesn’t even seem out of place.

How scattered is Blok Party? The album comes replete with the asinine – Baby rapping over a cell-phone-ringer version of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture; the serendipitous – Juvenile reappearing on a track with Petey Pablo; and the bizarre – Marbury excoriating his detractors. These and the plethora of other notable components make the Envy mixtape, if nothing else, highly entertaining, probably an unintended consequence of its varied components.

Of these various elements, the finest are songs from some of rap music’s best artists. Jay-Z contributes “H.O.V.A.,” a track carried by its piano melody and background vocal distortions, Jigga trademarks. Similarly, the Lox also recreate their own dependable formula – a dramatic synthesizer beat with some lighter sounds interspersed – on “D Block,” a joint on which the underrated Sheek shines. Redman, too, makes a trip to his own well, rapping over an Erick Sermon-produced beat that can best be described as bearing the “Def Squad sound.”

All of these quality tracks are tempered by several underwhelming songs. In addition to Baby’s misbegotten “Big Things,” the unpleasantly bland “What, Why, Where, When” and sonically gaudy “Why Wouldn’t I” all contain beats that will quickly, if not immediately, cause listeners to reach for the skip button.

Most unfortunate, though, is that Blok Party features too many wack artists. Foxy Brown spits about designer handbags while Baby sets a record for most songs only about material wealth. And then there’s Fabolous, whose continued mediocrity and repetitive lyrics make his breakout “Y’all Can’t Deny It” seem like the product of lottery-type luck.

Blok Party is not only a compendium of the sufficient and the terrible, though. Rah Digga steals the album’s spotlight with her energetic, commanding and intelligent verse on “Throw Your Shit Up,” Joe Budden sounds like a break-out star on “Focus” and the sequencing that places DMX’s fine “Deeper” directly before Ja Rule’s middling “We Fly” allows X to son his imposter. And, to allay concerns, Ja’s song features his singing and an R&B hook. Phew.

A mixtape often contains the best and worst features of a compilation and this LP is no exception.

2 1/2 Stars

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