Saturday, March 26, 2011


The day that Vigilante Season came out, I read a tweet that, although I don’t remember who wrote it, basically mourned that the world would allow autotune to enter a Max B song. Since I had not listened to the album yet, this really bothered me, thinking that Vigilante Season had succumbed to the pop pied piper like Pink Friday or the album cuts from Rolling Papers. I was, luckily, wrong.

If this is a pop album, I have been using the wrong definition of the word for quite a while. The (actually very minor) use of autotune, however, is a good hint as to how one should read this album. Max B, although he is quite a good rapper, really brings the listener into his songs through his half-sung, half-drunk choruses and the effectiveness of a song’s particular hook and the ability of the production to support it says a lot about the effectiveness of the song as a whole.

The rapping, on the contrary, really needs time to grow on you, seeming sloppy at first, but eventually producing some serious earworms. Max actually has a pretty slow, meticulous flow, which is not overly complicated but seriously effective when he does choose some well-placed fancy footwork. That being said, the album on a whole doesn’t seem to be all that put together. It seems as though Max chose various elements for each song via-dartboard, producing some songs that really punch and some that just seem like orange juice and toothpaste. The album excels at the ends, with two single-worthy tracks at the beginning and a consistently effective second half. The best tracks on the album produce a partially deluded yet self-aware happiness that I can only compare to something like the effects of addiction: Max is happy, but he knows he shouldn’t really be. In the end, the best of Max’s style, which Yayo has accurately described as wino-esque, actually ends up being quite sad. Songs like “Money Make Me Feel Better”, “Green Gain”, and “I Need Money” have a sort of propped-up, uneasy quality that makes them really effective. These songs, in addition, have the album’s subtlest, yet somehow most catchy hooks, resulting in consistently complex and moody songs that somehow make me feel both uneasy and empathetic. Larger, more anthemic tracks are only slightly less effective and often include interesting production choices: “South Wave”, for example, has an almost gothic techno-like beat, culminating in a terrifically desolate chorus. The same goes for "Lord Tryna Tell Me Something".

The album just goes off the edge when there is an element that clearly just doesn’t fit. “Model of Entropy” flounders simply because its loungy, laid back chorus doesn’t allow the song to move anywhere when rapping comes along. The same goes for “Where Do I Go”. “Tattoos on Her Ass” has a powerful beat and chorus, but the verses, in which Max B mostly disses Lil Wayne, just fail to be as menacing as Max seems to want them to be. These misses, however, really only highlight the highs of the album in there inability to communicate complex emotional extremes in the way that the best songs are really capable of doing. And it is for that reason that I recommend this release. Free Max B.

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