New Joc City
t’s actually pronounced “Young Jock,” but if you initially thought “Joc” rhymed with “coke,” it’s more than understandable. First, there’s that name, which comes a close second to Godsmack in terms of foolishly referencing one of its most obvious influences (it’s a close second because he looks like Jeezy but sounds exactly like T.I.). And then there’s the rather unathletic-looking man himself, something the writers from Entourage could cobble together in fifteen minutes if Turtle needed to manage a generic southern rapper in the third season. Or, more accurately, someone Diddy could pull off the streets of Atlanta to kickstart the perpetually misguided Bad Boy South label just before summer.
New Joc City, you see, comes on the heels of an incredibly lucrative deal between Bad Boy and Block Entertainment. But you know who’s the big winner here? Jon Koncak, who no longer holds the distinction of being Atlanta’s least deserving millionaire. Nonetheless, it’s easy to see why Diddy would pony up. After having a solo Young Jeezy slip through his fingers and thinking Ma$e could commercially rebound with Mr. Kotter samples rather than an embrace of his newly adopted homebase, Yung Joc lets him right both wrongs at the same time.
Though predictably rushed and cobbled together, New Joc City doesn’t feel padded. There aren’t five remixes of “It’s Goin’ Down,” nor is there an abundance of skits or guest spots. (Purple Ribbon weed holder Konkrete gives a verse on “Dope Boy Magic” that crackles with the kind of excitement that can only come from a top-billing cameo.) But it’s a wonder why Boyz N Da Hood didn’t just become a trap-hop Menudo with Joc replacing Jeezy; he’s hardly a bankable breakout star or anywhere near ready to carry an album by himself. You’ll find him reusing lines in consecutive tracks (“fresh to death like I stepped out of a casket”), turning throwaway lyrics into hooks (“Patron”), and generally riding beats like a tricycle with extra training wheels.
On one of the skits, a crotchety-voiced man asks, “he’s 23 years old! He don’t even remember the Smurfs and the Snorks? What does he rap about?” It’s intended to be the usual Madd Rapper attack on the nouveau riche, but here, it’s a legitimate question. As if he’s getting paid by the cliché, Joc uses his debut album to inform you about the following, sometimes in these exact words; Yung Joc has the cleanest shoes on his feet and his car, it’s goin’ down, pass that Patron, don’t fuck with his coke, don’t fuck with his money, don’t fuck with his crew, and if you value your life, don’t fuck with Yung Joc. Unless you’re a bitch. Then you should most certainly fuck with him and then get the fuck out.
It’s the last part of this equation that provides the only parts of New Joc City that are actually unlistenable as opposed to merely eye-rolling. A call-and-response club track as stomach-turning as the season finale of House, “The 1st Time” will make you appreciate the Ying Yang Twins for at least working in the vernacular; I seriously doubt anyone of either sex is enticed by the prospect of their naughty bits being “chew[ed] like a piece of Bubble Yum.” And while “Knock It Out” inexplicably drops by Babyface’s studio on the way to Body Tap and promises “thug Kama Sutra,” it ends up being birth control in audio form.
Otherwise, New Joc City is a thinly veiled attempt to recreate the massively overrated King at a fraction of the price. At his best (“Dope Boy Magic”), Yung Joc does a remarkably competent imitation—working within the same frame, serving up loosely connected boasts and threats (but never storytelling) over itchy 808s and synth blasts, and just to make the similarities all the more obvious, even some disco-whistle Swizz Beatz.
Despite all the pejoratives that can be thrown at New Joc City (useless, almost zen-like in its nothingness, why hip-hop sucks in ’06), it can only be considered disappointing to those with the most grossly mismanaged expectations. It presents a conundrum: how do you review an album that sets its artistic ambitions so low that it’s virtually critic-proof? Nonetheless, it stands as a pretty delicious pop-culture experiment. Despite its chart dominance, southern hip-hop remains largely non-canonical; sensing a golden opportunity, scores of writers are falling over themselves in attempts to be the poet laureate of its still-evolving narrative, creating an echo chamber where seemingly every drawler with a coke and a smile gets a rubber stamp approval and Lil’ Wayne is named “the best rapper alive” because he purports to actually give a shit about craft.
If people start riding for the cause of New Joc City, an album that its own author doesn’t even seem all that concerned about, it’s unassailable proof that objectivity has completely gone out the window. Don’t let the lack of a Yankee hat and Tim boots take your eye off the ball; Joc’s as hopelessly dull as any Native Tongues worshipper and so devoid of personality that by comparison, Rick Ross is a worthy candidate for an 8 Mile-esque biopic. He can’t even offer reductionist pleasures like regional escapism, vainglorious swagger, or “he lives this shit.” He barely even mentions Atlanta, makes no boasts whatsoever concerning his mic skills, and it’s incredibly difficult to picture him as a champion dick-and-gunslinger when it sounds like a 5-minute game of Duck Hunt would have him begging for an inhaler.
The whole ordeal reminds the listener that every summer, a guy like Jerome James or Shandon Anderson makes you wonder how NBA owners managed to get rich in the first place. The same goes for Diddy; couldn’t he just pay G-Dep a couple hundred to pretend he was from Bankhead? There are only two possible validations for New Joc City: either Bad Boy South is a tax write-off or Diddy’s trying to prove to James Dolan that he could hit the ground running as the next Knicks GM.