Anyone familiar with the street savvy Big Shug should not expect any surprises with his latest effort. To put it simply, he sticks to the script- abiding by a simple formula which combines first-rate production with gritty, authentic lyrics. Technically this should be a recipe for success; however, this aggressive and exceedingly dedicated rapper is somewhat one dimensional with his lyrical crop. Suffice to say, the production in many cases surpasses the lyricism on several tracks. Nevertheless, what Big Shug lacks in lyricism he succinctly makes up with unequivocal conviction and passion. Furthermore, on several tracks, featured artists like Singapore Kane and Termanology tend to outshine him. All the same, it would seem that this inconvenient truth hardly matters, when in fact these very rappers view Shug as the vanguard of Boston rap.
Otherside of the Game opens up with two primo laced cuts, Soundcheck and When I Strike; sadly both tracks could have been better suited for other rappers. Despite the simplicity of the rhythmic patterns in the aforesaid tracks, which in theory would allow Shug to excel; his elementary yet undeviating verses don't match Primo's patented beats. Like A Muthafucka, another DJ Premier product, is a complete waste of a beat that finds Shug rambling about nothing.
Standout cuts on this album include Primo's My Boston which finds Termanology, Singapore Kane and Big Shug paying homage to Beantown, enveloped between the bass and keys patterns that could only be contrived by Premier. Despite being outshined by Term, Shug's verse is one of his better deliveries on the album. It appears as though that Shug is better served when he spits details about his hometown, as witnessed in the Moss produced Murdapan, a tribute if you will, to Boston's Mattapan. Militant Soldiers II is another cut that finds Shug in his best form, spitting alongside Blaq Poet and Singapore Kane over Moss's timberland and army fatigue muzik. Other worthy listens include the Frank Wainwright and Billy Danze assisted What It Means and Meaning of Hardcore.
The truth is Big Shug was never ahead of the Gang Starr Foundation class with regards to lyrical dexterity. However, one cannot deny his believable passion and his disposition to being forthright, "... I got a magazine baby and a sock rag." Sadly this album plays more like a showcase for the producers with creditable remnants of Shug sprinkled in here and there. Nevertheless, this album is still worth the listen especially for fans of this Gang Starr affiliate who more or less know what to expect from Shug.
TURN OFF THE RADIO!