Disturbing Tha Peace Presents Bobby Valentino
emember Mista? They were one of myriad mid-to-late-‘90s male R&B quartets, most notable for Lil’ Kim referencing their minor R&B hit “Blackberry Molasses” in appalling fashion in her song “Dreams.” [I won’t quote the Queen Bee here; cop a copy of Hard Core and hear it for yourself.] After breaking up—their sole album wasn’t much of a hit—Mista’s lead singer went to college, graduating in 2003. He then decided to get back into music, releasing an independent single to radio stations around his native Los Angeles at the end of 2004. In classic music-biz fairy-tale fashion, that single, titled “Slow Down,” became an out-of-the-box smash on all of L.A.’s R&B and hip-hop stations. This led to a bidding war for the singer’s services, won by Ludacris’s Disturbing Tha Peace label. Thus, DTP’s first R&B album, Disturbing Tha Peace Presents Bobby Valentino.
With Valentino now nationwide, “Slow Down” ascended to the throne on Billboard’s R&B chart last week, capping an improbable success story. But now comes the real test: the debut album. The world of R&B is littered with the sad tales of hot single-leads-to-hot debut album male singers, who tend to get anywhere between one and two years before we ask, “what have you done for us lately?” The answer’s generally “not much,” and said debut albums often clog the racks at used-CD stores. Case? Call for you on the white courtesy phone. Tank? Say hello. So it’s not as if Valentino’s launch comes without pressure.
In his corner is the production team of Tim & Bob, blue-collar guys who can be relied upon to hammer out sturdy, if often unexciting, tracks (“Come Touch Me” has an urgent, tasty telegraphic beat). Working against Valentino, however, are a number of factors. His lyrics are mostly bad-to-worse, full of in-da-club come-ons (“How did you get that in those jeans,” “Slow down, ‘cause that pretty round thing looks good to me,”), lines straight from the cliché factory (“Turn the lights down low,” “What goes around, comes back around”) and some that are just confusedly odd (The female protagonist of “Lights Down Low” is wearing a “low-cut thong.” As opposed to a high-cut thong?). His voice is a fairly generic high-pitched whiny male voice, not so distinguishable from, say, Mario’s (or Mario Winans’s). But the brick wall this album runs into is track 11, an interlude (why?) preceding a mind-numbing stretch of four ballads making up the album’s back end (save for the totally unnecessary “Thank You Lord (Outro)” (I thought we’d moved past that former R&B necessity) and a remix of “Slow Down” which is more of a ballad than the original—I would’ve preferred a chopped-and-screwed version), each of them mawkish, tedious, and thoroughly dreadful.
The “Asian” touches that help “Slow Down” stand out (and even excel to an extent, in spite of its wretched lyrics) show up again in “Tell Me” (which has lyrics which are, incredibly, worse)—that’s called lazy production. Valentino’s boss Luda drops 16 bars on “Give Me A Chance,” bars which are some of the weakest of his career. As for a song titled “Gangsta Love,” well, do I really need to say anything? It’s exactly what you’d expect. This album is nothing but a “Quick, the single’s hot!” cash-in, one which could have been far better than it is, but nearly everyone involved sounds as if they fell asleep on the job—even Ludacris, which is saying something. Bobby Valentino’s got no substance behind his pretty-boy façade, and on Disturbing Tha Peace Presents Bobby Valentino, it shows.