Review : David Banner - Death of a Pop Star
PitchforkFor all the pre-release hype-- one of southern rap's more idiosyncratic auteurs spitting hard-eyed realism over beats from one of the key flame-keepers for golden age boom-bap-- Death of a Pop Star turned out to be a strange, slight, largely disappointing record. It should have been the album to reverse David Banner's creative slide. But instead of hellfire righteousness over back-to-basics bangers, we got 10 tracks heavy on drippy love raps, dumbly repetitive hooks, and beats suspiciously lacking in thump-value.
Banner made a splash with 2003's Mississippi: The Album, a fascinating mix of amoral thugging and mournful moralizing. After that he mostly ditched the interesting side of his persona-- erudite everyman torn between Southern pride and sorrow over the down-and-out realities of Southern life-- in search of BEP-level hits. This quixotic quest reached an ugly apotheosis with 2008's The Greatest Story Ever Told, where the few moments of politicized rage were smothered and made facile by the icky, half-assed attempts to keep up with the Auto-Tuned Joneses.
In that light, even the title, Death of a Pop Star, seemed promising, a chance for Banner to disavow his attempts to create top-selling ringtones and get back to the fury that once made him one of the quasi-mainstream's most interesting figures. The duo maybe even went into the studio intending to make their Illmatic: a dose of classicist rap intensity, one MC going hard over no-filler beats. What they turned out instead is, like all of Banner's albums since Mississippi, a muddled hybrid of styles that clash more often than they mesh. Many tracks have an awkwardly smooth R&B vibe that diffuses Banner's decidedly non-smooth energy. And Banner's version of "soul rap," his emotionally naked bluesy drawl, was already a hundred times more interesting than the antiseptic pop-soul stabs on Death, tracks like "Slow Down" which have as much grit as the Ace of Base tunes the song's hook recalls....full text
HiphopdxDeath Of A Pop Star is arguably Banner's best work to date, and certainly the most digestible to those jarred by the Crooked Lettaz' front-man's production."
David Banner journeys to the opposite end of the Rap-o-sphere on his fifth studio album. Where every album prior showcased the Mississippi emcee’s skills behind the mic and the boards, he hands production duties over to 9th Wonder this time out, allowing the North Carolina beat-miner to craft the score to the spaceship ride that is Death Of A Pop Star.
It only takes 30 minutes for Banner to completely redefine his lyrical reputation. He’s always been a skillfully aggressive rapper, but hearing him relentlessly attack track after track with varying styles and levels of introspection -- dropping dime after dime like Hugh Hefner -- over 9th’s snare heavy, east coast sound is the truest testament to his range as a rapper yet seen.
His suicidal thoughts speak for the millions still suffering through the current Great Recession on “Diamonds On My Pinky”. “Dreams of screaming demons hearing death whisper 'Hello' / My shell’s strong / My soul is Green Lantern wearing yellow / Hella weak," he raps over the album opener’s haunting choir and charging bass line, then closing the song with six of the year’s realest bars:...full text
DjboothArtist: David Banner
Title: Death of a Pop Star
Producer(s): 9th Wonder, David Banner
Lead Single: Slow Down
Twitter: David Banner on Twitter
Website: David Banner's Website
True story. David Banner was reading my review of his previous album, in which I said that his music, which constantly vacillated between strip club ready anthems and politically charged manifestos, often sounded at war with itself. “You know,” Banner said to himself, “that Nathan S. is completely right. I can keep dropping a few revolutionary tracks every album until I die, but people will still think of me as the dude who did Rubberband Man and Play. What I need to do is make an entire album that showcases me as a serious emcee, and if I want people to truly look at me in a different light, I’m going to need some outside assistance. I know, I’ll do a collab album with 9th Wonder! Man, that Nathan S. is a f**king genius.”
Ok, so that’s not a true story, but it should be. Either way, David Banner, a.k.a. the biggest hip-hop force Mississippi has ever produced, is clearly at the point in his career when he’s starting to think about the legacy he’s leaving behind, and wasn’t entirely happy with what he sees in the rearview. In a play to force hip-hop to respect his underrated lyricism, and make music that truly lived up to his lofty ideals, he recruited that master of soul-infused bangers, 9th Wonder, for their album Death of a Pop Star. While Banner and 9th don’t exactly bring out the best in each other, they’re both far too set in their ways to change much, if nothing else it’s fascinating to watch two veterans with distinctly original sounds join forces. Oh, and the music’s pretty damn good too.
“Dreams of screaming demons, hearin death whisper hello … I tried suicide but the gun wasn’t workin.” Just in case you were expecting Get Like Me, those are some of first words we hear on Death of a Pop Star and the message is unmistakable; David Banner is not playing (pun intended). But although he often keeps the lyrical content concrete heavy, 9th’s beats offer just enough soul to keep the tracks from dragging. Case in point, No Denying, a cut whose production sounds made for a soulful meditation on love, but Banner instead detours into both a commentary on the negative effects his music may have had and the soul killing nature of wealth. A lyrical onslaught like that might feel overwhelming, but 9th’s always heartfelt boardwork keeps listeners around just long enough for Banner to truly let his message sink in. It’s an expertly crafted balance that Death of a Pop Star finds again and again, from the not at all silly Silly to the grinding gospel of The Light.
Death of a Popstar isn’t entirely fire and brimstone. In fact, it often covers some very familiar territory – women. Be With You’s sparkling beat, along with Marsha Amborius’ always beautiful vocals, give the album’s most overtly booty-centric song a real sweetness. It’s a long way from Banner’s usual rough sex talk, and it’s a tribute to 9th that he makes David sound more pop than ever, but never soft. It’s crucial to note that even the other tracks that touch on the fairer sex bring an unexpectedly deeper level. The stripper in Slow Down reveals that she’s merely dancing because she’s struggling to pay her baby’s medical bills, and Stutter takes Banner about as far away from his pimping ways as he can get and turns him into a romantically vulnerable, tongue tied suitor. In many ways this is the bravest work David’s ever done – ironically he’s never sounded like more of a pop star. ...full text
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