Thug Matrimony: Married to the Streets
ip-hop played it close to the vest in 2004 and waited to the end of the year to unleash Cam’ron’s Purple Haze, T.I.’s Urban Legend, Nas’ Street Disciple, Lil Jon’s Crunk Juice, and a handful of other anticipated albums. Understandably, the sixth album by Florida rapper Trick Daddy could have been lost in the shuffle, but an impressive guest list and several crossover-ready singles save it from potential obscurity.
For a guy whose first hit was titled “I’m a Thug” and has the word “thug” in the title of almost every album, Trick Daddy is, surprisingly, not that thuggish on Thug Matrimony. Thuggery only fills about a third of the album in two concentrated doses at the beginning and the end.
The album begins with a portentous bass string warble before busting into the insane “Fuckin’ Around.” Trick plays no games with the guest batting order, putting T.I. and up-and-comer Young Jeezy over a stop-start beat and blinking piano keys. The track is basically so hot that people are burning their fingers on stereos as they try to turn the volume up.
With Lil Jon, Twista and a heavy metal sample, radio staple “Let’s Go” could have crossed over for anyone in 2004—Trick’s presence is just saliva on the envelope. Lil Jon has welded metal guitars onto his own album and the excellent Lil Scrappy/Trillville album in 2004, and they flow just as well here with the crunk bombast.
The moody “Gangsta Livin’,” with its overlapping chorus sections and sub-ocean level horn burps, veers down perfectly from the energy of the first two songs, and also showcases Trick Daddy’s range without any guests to assist him.
And then—just when he’s well on the way to making the best rap album of the year—Trick takes a left turn and goes into a three song stretch of positive messages, yearning for a better world for future generations. “These Are the Daze” “I Wanna Sang” and “The Children’s Song” are all very good, but the change in direction is a bit sudden. Moments ago he was doing drive-bys and selling drugs; now he’s praising higher education and encouraging kids to be deep-sea explorers. If nothing else, it certainly makes good on the “Trick loves the kids” catch line from 2002’s “Dro In Da Wind.”
After a brief return to the beginning’s theme with “U Never Know,” Trick goes into a five song suite of sex jams and love songs. Most of these are quite good: The Talking Heads “Sugar (Gimmie Some)” is a smart second single, and the omnipresent Jazze Pha balances Trick’s voice well with his snazzy production on two songs.
The final three songs (“Thugs About,” “Ain’t a Thug,” and “Down Wit Da South”) return to the opening trio’s themes in a more resigned, almost mournful manner. The album as a whole is buttressed with an impressive set of guests; Khia, Ludacris, Cee-Lo, Dirt Bag, Trina and the Ying Yang Twins all appear, again demonstrating the heavy collaborative network of southern rappers in 2004.
The album’s different personalities are not necessarily unwelcome or even incompatible, but they do give a loose, breezy feel to an album that, for three songs, was tight as hell. It’s almost a matter of preference: A listener who prefers a long hip-hop album that skips from sub-genre to sub-genre and is jumbled with guests and loaded with contradicting themes might consider this the year’s best. But even those who were looking for a concise statement—or developed unreasonable expectations after the first three songs—can appreciate what is still an essential hip-hop album, and certainly one of the best of last year.
Reviewed by: Erick Bieritz
Reviewed on: 2005-01-03