20060404

Stabbed For A Couple Stamps

Hell Rell: Hell Is Home (Rukmix)
Hell on Earth

C-lister to the stars, Rell is that guy. In and out of the pen too much while coming up to settle down and find a legitimate flow and style of his own, the King of (Streetsleeping) New York simplifies the Dipset aesthetic and mass markets it to boutique borough mixtape traders, who listen halfway and toss like a token R&B cut. "Maybe next time," they think. Not me.

You see, I met Rell once. Well, when I say "met," I mean "saw." But when I say "once," I mean "once." We were in a big room with people in it (don't want to give away any of Rell's spots here, sorry). He was short. More like an overgrown midget than an undersized man. He walked with adequate ease. He talked on his cell phone nonchalantly while music was blasting at extremely loud volumes-- he's used to such things. He didn’t really expect anyone to know him and that's good, because nobody did. But I recognized his wide, cheek-filled face on first look. "Oh shit, there's Rell," I thought to myself. I was the only person thinking this.

The thing that keeps me coming back is his penchant for the grand slam. He's like an aging baller who largely swats air but is known to knock one at opportune moments. And, like a steel door to the temple, the now-you-see-it rawhide blasts do damage. ("I'm still wonderful/ I put a TV in the trunk so, when I throw you in it, you feel comfortable"). Unlike other Rell tapes, Hell on Earth is nearly all Rell. Single verses abound on the 49 track behemoth as dude dominates roughly 95 percent of the tape. Of course, this makes it wholly unlistenable. While waiting for lines like, "My watch is full of little Smurfs and Tweety Birds," there's tons of bullshit to wade through. Kochese's Hellraiser is a more well-rounded, manageable affair but Hell on Earth has a completist element that three people will appreciate.

Also, with this tape, the rapper can check off another "hell" phrase from his scribbly black-and-white ideas tome. Keeping score, we've got Hellraiser, Hell on Earth, For the Hell of It and Hell Up in Harlem. Another recent tape dubbed Streets Wanna Know predictably failed due to its experimental title. Causal suggestions for the future: Frozen Hell (perfect for those January hut treks), Hell to Pay, Hellish (simple yet effective), Hell In A Handbasket, Helluva Nice Guy, Like Hell (tribute album), Hellbot (futuristic Bobby Digital shit) and Hellbent.

The Hardest Out is not merely notable for his endearing mediocrity. He's the first rapper to appropriate Hurricane Katrina as a metaphor for toughness. (Since I've listened to every mixtape since Katrina hit, I know he's the first, yeah). "My flow is hurricane (Katrina!)," he suggests-- convincingly-- on the "Get 'Em Daddy" remix and, later, warns, "You want war, I'll Hurricane Katrina your Beamer." Rell doesn't care about the displacement of millions-- such godly displays of power are pretty awesome to him. Which, given his comedic impotence in rap's megasphere, is only fitting.