Beanie Sigel

The Broad Street Bully Mixtape

(Siccness Records; 2009)

By Colin McGowan | 13 October 2009

Following the sorta-baffling pop-rap of The Solution (2007), hip-hop’s greatest curmudgeon is back—minus the glossy production and James Blunt cameos—bitching out snitches and stomping on any foliage that sprung up during his two-year absence from the game. Almost as an apology, The Broad Street Bully might be more bereft of frills than anything Beanie Sigel has ever committed to tape; plus it serves, if we’re led to believe release dates, as an appetite-whetter for The Ignorance, his 2010 full-length.

Still, BSB feels somewhat redundant as a reminder in that it’s hard to believe anyone really forgot Beanie Sigel’s alternately pissy and paranoid gangsterisms in the first place, despite whatever time he’s been “absent,” but it’s also difficult to fathom how anyone could pass on 40 more minutes of Beanie’s brand of unabashed boom bap. One can easily conjure images of Sigel hunched uncomfortably over a notebook in a dilapidated studio, a dwindling spliff dangling from his mouth, between his gritted teeth, scrawling verbal volleys and visceral threats aimed at whoever has wronged or offended him. That would seem to be the only scenario that could birth such righteously bitter spite—spite in which Beanie absolutely revels.

Over spare samples and adamant drums, Sigel speaks authoritatively about his own realness, somehow evading the pitfalls of rappers who “wanna let you know what this rap shit is really all about” or posturing MCs so insistent upon their own street cred they practically out themselves as frauds. Perhaps it’s Beanie’s tone—buoyant or sober, but always unwavering—that persuades the listener to suspend all disbelief. Or perhaps it’s just that he’s a genuinely compelling lyricist, illuminating the depth of the ghetto’s sorrows (“Tryin’ to suppress their poverty by gettin’ high”) and his own glassy-eyed philosophies (“As the world and my gun barrel turns / Gunpowder burn niggas heads like perms”) with equal adroitness, throwing in a potent diss here and there for the sake of fire-starting.

If one really needs an added impetus to download Beanie’s latest outside of the fact that he’s simply rapping his ass off, here’s this: with Scarface’s retirement, rap lost one of its premier elder statesmen. T.I. once referred to Face as his uncle—undoubtedly, the uncle who smokes cigars daily, buys you beer, talks to you about pussy. Facemob was a reliable well of unapologetically unvarnished, intelligent street rap, achieving his artistic pinnacle with 2002’s The Fix before settling into an overlooked late-career string of muted piff. Luda may have audaciously claimed last year to be “the last of a dying breed” (as in: one of “lyrical MCs” or whatever), a bullshit claim in itself, but the paradigmatic “veteran gangsta rapper” might actually be an endangered species at this point as Face’s quiet exit has left, upon examination, a conspicuous void.

So the burden falls on Beanie Sigel and his State Prop brethren (namely: Young Chris and Freeway, both great here) to bestow upon us the simple pleasure of honest street shit. Sigel substitutes cold animosity for Face’s weathered wisdom, but their sentiments both emanate from roughly the same place—namely, from an affection for slick lines and tales from the corner. The Broad Street Bully isn’t revelatory or some shimmering blueprint, but it does inspire more than a twinge of excitement to hear sixteen polished bars delivered with a snarling fervor engendered by the shit-colored slush of a Northeastern winter and a healthy sense of disenfranchisement. This sort of stuff is like chicken noodle soup for the rap lover’s soul, possibly more cherished in this climate because the grocery store’s shelves are surprisingly bare.