When the cascading keyboards of “It’s Me, Bitches,” the first single from super producer Swizz Beats’ One Man Band Man, first hit the radio – the edited “It’s Me, Snitches” is more enjoyable than its expletive-heavy foundation – they annoyed more than endeared. Even die-hard fans of “The Price is Right’s” famed game Plinko would run screaming from the track’s clicking, popping and, well, plinking. But as the track engrains itself into every radio station’s playlist and MCs use the beat for their respective mixtapes, Swizzy looks less like a game show contestant and more like the unstoppable producer that’s brought him immense amounts of respect.
Taking a similar route as Southern, freak-lyricist Lil’ Wayne, Swizzy entered the game young, hitting the scene when at 16. He released his solo debut G.H.E.T.T.O. Stories in 2002 to little critical recognition, pushing him behind the boards once again to continue his outlandish, spastic, yet intricate production. With One Man Band Man, the long-overlooked producer is able to spit just enough good one-liners over his otherworldly production to garner him the praise he’s long deserved.
With a healthy dose of confidence, Swizz Beats shows he’s an adequate MC but a more effective producer. He flows on the opener “Product man,” “I got that product man / You know I got that product man / Beats, hooks, loops and samples.” Knowing he won’t drop any mind-bogging rhymes, he boasts his production skills more than his lyrical prowess. And on the aforementioned “It’s Me, Bitches,” Swizzy prudently decides to swipe lines from the likes of Wu-Tang’s “C.R.E.A.M.” rather than water down his colossal beat with his own tepid flows. He’s not afraid of a little name-dropping, either. Insisting his own importance to the rap game on “Bust Ya Gunz,” he rambles off, “But Kayne know my name / Timbo know my name / Pharrell know my name / Scottie know my name,” making himself an idol among idols.
But Swizz Beats’ confidence surrounding One Man Band Man may have hurt the album in the long run. As he is only a functional MC, his lackluster lines dumb down many of the incredible beats that define the album. Though unproductively, Timbaland recruited everyone under the sun to offer a guest verse on his underwhelming 2007 release Shock Value. If Swizzy had been more selective of his guests, he could’ve accomplished exactly what Timbo had aimed for on his disc. As such, the guest spots from Lil’ Wayne, R. Kelly and Jadakiss on the remix of “It’s Me, Bitches” make the club banger even more phenomenal.
Unfortunately they don’t stick around. Swizzy’s unremarkable lines on “You Know Your Boy Did That” diminish the track’s hypnotic feedback and thumping kick drum. Similarly, the grating chorus on “Take a Picture” (“Get ya cameras out / Get ya flash right / Let me pose so you can picture me doing my thing”) bogs down the funk guitars, soft-spoken bells and humming keyboards.
Essentially, One Man Band Man goes as the production goes. Fortunately, Swizzy’s proficiency in the studio can uplift even his worst lines. The A-Team horns on “Top Down” are boastful and explosive while the minimalist “Money In the Bank” rides a pep rally sample and pounding percussion.
The album doesn’t say anything people didn’t already know: Swizz Beats is an incredible producer with remedial flows. But Swizzy never showed any intention of proving otherwise. If this disc does show anything it’s that he truly is the one-man band: accordion between his knees, trash lids on his feet and genius on the boards.
Rating: 3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars
One Man Band Man