Over the years I’ve bought albums for several different reasons. Most of them I purchased because I was a fan of the artist, or not necessarily a fan but I liked one or two of their songs and was curious on what the rest of their music sounded like. Some of my collection are from artist that I’ve heard of but have never listened to their music and something piqued my interest to cop (the reason usually being it was screaming “get me out of this dollar bin, please!”). Then there are a few that I’ve never heard of the artist before, but their affiliation with an artist that I like, drew me in. Like the subject of today’s post: the Houston based rapper Sho and his Trouble Man album.
The album cover for Trouble Man caught my eye when I read the title “Sho Featuring Willie D” and noticed the pic of Willie D (of The Geto Boys) standing next to Sho. I’m a fan of the Geto Boys and I’ve always been entertained by Willie D’s southern twang, random outbursts and colorful lyricism. So even if Sho stinks, Willie D (who is also credited with producing the album along with The 2 Horsemen, whoever they are) will make the purchase worthwhile…right??
This is my first time listening to Trouble Man (well, at least Sho’s version of it…shout out to the late great Marvin Gaye…and T.I.), and I’d be willing to bet you’ve never listened to it before, either. If you have, feel free to hit me in the comments and share your thoughts.
Pray I’ll Be A Failure – Trouble Man begins with a soulful backdrop that lands right where somber and optimistic cross paths, and Sho uses it to call out the haters that he claims are praying for his downfall and vows to become successful despite their opposition (How narcissistic must you be to think that someone would take the time out of their day to literally get on their knees and pray to God that you would fail in life?). He also introduces the world to his slow monotone southern drawl. Willie D drops in, adding the final verse and sounds a million times better than his host. Sho and Willie’s message was semi-motivational, but the true star of this one is the soulful southern instrumental.
Fiend In The Family – This one starts with Willie D remixing the Cheers theme song into a drug dealer’s anthem. Then a simple funky guitar chord comes in accompanied by a soft melodic loop, and Sho discusses the hardship of having a dope head as a relative. Sho sounds like he’s about to fall asleep or he just woke up and listening to his slow muddled flow started to make me drowsy. Thankfully, the soothing instrumental makes this worth listening to.
Pookie – This short interlude features a verbal exchange between two crack heads (Cliff and Sonny) trying to cop from a drug dealer, ironically, named Pookie. This was worthy of a partial chuckle, but if you let out a deep belly laugh, you deserve a smack, and your sense of humor should be called in for questioning.
Another Day On The Cut – Willie and the boys chop up the same Leon Haywood loop that Dr. Dre used for “Nuthin’ But A “G” Thang”, but they put a different twist on it, turning it into a dark soulful groove for Sho to share a day in the life of a street hustler (for some reason his line: “Went to my gal’s house, woke her up, I got a meal and the guts” makes me laugh every time I hear it). Sho’s rhymes were mediocre, the hook was ass, but this instrumental is tough.
Trouble Man – Apparently, Sho’s drug dealing gig wasn’t going so well, which would explain why he spends the length of this one complaining, I mean, sharing the struggle for a young black man to make ends meet. Willie D drops in and spits a few bars that come off like he’s trying to gather sympathy from the listener for Sho’s situation. I wasn’t crazy about the rhymes or content on this one, but the soulfully weary instrumental was dope.
Fireweed – As I’ve mentioned several times through the years on this blog, marijuana dedication songs were almost a prerequisite for hip-hop albums in the nineties, and Sho keeps my theory alive with this one. Our host takes a short break to chant praises to Mary Jane (and hi-lariously shouts out some of the celebrities that are/were known for partaking in the herbal medicine) over a synthetic reggae-tinged instrumental that no matter how hard you try to resist, you’ll be vibin’ to the music while rapping along with the catchy chant.
Mississippi – Sho starts this one off by dedicating it to all the hustlers, then he shares a tale about his adventures of “moving three ki’s and a car full of firearms” to Mississippi, and things don’t end well for our host. Sho does a solid job of keeping the storyline interesting, but even more impressive is the brilliant bluesy backdrop. This is easily one of my favorite songs on the album.
Miss Thang – This one opens with Sho needing a little encouragement from Willie D to work up the courage to step to a PYT that he wants to stroke, and he gets uncomfortably straightforward in his approach (see the hook: “Miss Thang I ain’t got much to offer you, but I still wanna knock your boots”). Sho’s humble pleas for the skins are backed by a mellow and melodic instrumental built around an interpolation of the same Delegation loop that Three Times Dope used for “Funky Dividends” (come to think of it, Scarface also rapped over the loop on We Can’t Be Stopped’s “Quickie”). The instrumental was cool, but Sho sounds sloppy, bored and corny for most of this one. Although, I did chuckle at his line “I got the three B’s and I don’t regret it: a bucket, a bus card and bad credit”.
Here Today Gone Tomorrow – Over a mellow groove, Sho shares a few stories about how quickly playing in these streets can end up fatal. Hats off to Willie D and ’em, as the musicality in this instrumental is phenomenal.
Legal Murder – Our host gets into his conspiracy theory bag, giving examples of some of the ways murder happens in American and the Government (who is usually the culprit) lets it happen with no penalty. I like Sho’s concept, but he completely apes 2pac’s “Soulja’s Story” format on this one: He mimic’s the deep baritone distorted voice Pac used when rapping from the older brother’s perspective, and the instrumental even sounds undeniably similar to the classic Bill Wither’s loop Pac’s song was built around (By the way, “Soulja’s Story” is a severely underrated conceptual masterpiece, easily one of Pac’s best works). All of Sho’s thievery makes this one a little hard to enjoy, as the biting is as blatant as racism in America. Props to the uncredited male vocalist for the super catchy hook, though.
I’ma Get Mine – Sho uses this boring instrumental to piss on his haters and speak his own success in the rap game into existence (Hey, at least he tried). He invites an uncredited buddy to spit a verse and Willie D adds a super corny hook to complete what is easily the weakest song on Trouble Man.
Stick-N-Move – Sho closes out the album with a layered up-tempo dance groove that he, Willie D and the homies use to chant and sing all types of random shit over. This track would sound great in a workout mix.
On the album’s title track, Sho rhymes “So I’m on to a new thang, rap music, the brand-new dope game.” In a nutshell that line sums up Sho’s approach to Trouble Man. He comes across like an ex-drug dealer trying to find a legitimate hustle, and to him, rap was the obvious choice. But rhyming well takes skill, and having the bravery to slang dope doesn’t necessarily mean you can pen dope rhymes. Throughout most of Trouble Man, Sho sounds like an amatuer on the mic, rarely impressing with his simple rhymes and yawn-inducing monotone voice. The “Featuring Willie D” thing was a great marketing idea, but a bit misleading, as he does spit a couple of verses but most of his help comes in the form of a hook here and an adlib there, so don’t expect a Ghostface Killah on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx type of contribution from Willie. Speaking of Willie D, he and The 2 Horsemen’s contribution on the production side is worthy of praise, as they craft a cohesive batch of southern-fried soulful goodies to feed your soul while you bop your head and scrunch your face, ultimately making Trouble Man worthy of a listen.