Still Writing in my Diary: The 2nd Entry
he first time I heard “Get on Dis Motorcycle” from Petey Pablo’s poorly-titled new album Still Writing in my Diary: The 2nd Entry, it blew me away. I was riding my bicycle along Lake Shore Drive in Chicago when I came across nearly 200 kids crowded around the fence at a local skate park. Timbaland’s chaotic and energetic production perfectly reflected my similarly chaotic surroundings, an explosion of youthful exuberance and excitement that captured the spirit of the moment. The fourth time I heard it, 20 minutes later, I was still on my bike. Timbo uses the trippy, looped children’s chorus expertly, as a texture rather than overt melody, and sews it tightly over heavily syncopated drum stuttering and bhangra-style guitar. This febrile, swirling effect messed with my head, so much so that I lost control of the bike and ended up head-over-handlebars, the skittering vocal loop and Petey Pablo’s southern growl echoing in my brain. Three minutes later, I was walking down the street to the hospital to get stitches, bleeding profusely from the skull.
Petey Pablo’s new album could not possibly achieve this level of skull-crashing accomplishment every time out— “Get on Dis Motorcycle” is a highlight not just for Petey Pab but for producer Timbaland as well. Still, the album contains a surprisingly strong series of potential hit singles, driven primarily by some of the most stunning production in pop music today, while Petey Pablo’s personality helps to define the sound.
His break from one-hit-wonder status proves that Pablo is not a mere cipher, but a true collaborator. As impressive as Petey has always sounded over the southern bounce of Timbo’s beats, Lil Jon’s crunk steez seems to have encouraged Pablo to spread his wings stylistically, moving from the shouted growl of his 2001 country anthem “Raise Up” to a dirty, casual-yet-menacingly gruff and laid-back rap style. Petey Pablo could easily become to crunk what Snoop Dogg was to G-Funk—a smooth, drawl-inflected MC who becomes a definitive rapper for a primarily beat-driven genre of hip-hop.
Pablo’s second breakout single, of course, is “Freek-A-Leek,” which bears a strong resemblance to Lil Jon’s other major chart topper this year, Usher’s crunk-crossover party anthem “Yeah!” Consider “Freek-A-Leek” “Yeah!”’s adult-rated relative. Novation synth melodies define both songs, and both tracks feature a subtle, disarming flute hook during the chorus. However, Pablo’s X-rated rapping and the cleverly layered vocal chants during the sexually suggestive chorus contrast with Usher’s sly and somewhat low-key come-ons.
The rest of the album has its fair share of hits and misses—Mannie Fresh’s beats, which at one time were heart stopping double-time dirty south anthems, have become much shinier, slower, and less mesmerizing. They certainly pale in comparison to Timbaland’s inventive sonic alchemy and Lil Jon’s fresh synth assaults. Petey Pablo’s own beats show Timbaland’s heavy influence, although with an even more minimalist sound, minus much of his mentor’s essential creative spark. Kanye West appears for one song, “I Swear,” which sets a reflective mood for the conclusion of the LP.
Or sound you would think. The closer, “Vibrate”, is an electrifying party jam that literally vibrates with bass-heavy waves of Lil Jon’s trademark sonics, a sound that seems to have no previous precedent in hip-hop production. Like an over-the-top X-rated version of Big Boi’s recent hit “The Way You Move,” “Vibrate” churns and seethes with the driving noise of pure sexual release on the dancefloor. Where Big Boi loved “the way you move,” Pablo loves to “see you vibrate,” and the beat reflects this sharp contrast. If you’re tired of hearing your parents singing along with your favorite dance tracks, this might be the album for you.
Reviewed by: David Drake
Reviewed on: 2004-07-02