04 April 2011

Travis Barker, Give The Drummer Some (2011): Album Review

I’ve never liked Blink-182, The Aquabats, or The Transplants. But I’ve always thought Travis Barker was a very cool drummer. So while I’ve never really been into the bands he’s backed, I have always enjoyed his drumming and can understand why he would want to make a solo album displaying his talents. Unfortunately, his recent drum-infused rap remixes were wearing thin by time he decided to crank out Give The Drummer Some, an album made up entirely of percussion heavy rap tracks. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing however, and the CD highlights some of the best elements from the Rap-Rock genre.

For those of you that thought Rap-Rock met the same fate as backward fitted caps, Dungaroos, and good Tony Hawk games, you were wrong. Because like a mighty Phoenix ascending from a smoldering plane crash, Travis Barker is here to remind us why the genre was awesome (and also a little about why it isn’t).

Despite Jada Pinkett Smith’s efforts, kids are still interested in music that dates back to a time when Steven Tyler was kicking holes through Run Dmc’s walls. And while Barker’s album is specifically drum-focused, it is is a classic example of that genre. Unfortunately, most tracks sound like drum-infused remixes, and not bona fide songs. For every song that is clearly built around Travis’s presence, there are five more where his drumming sounds like an unnecessary layer atop a fully developed track. The many guest rappers featured on the album probably realized this and drop occasional shout-outs as reminders to the fact that the album is centered around a drummer. In fact, both Rick Ross and Lil’ Wayne lazily drop the line “Travis on the drums,” in the same song. Without such reference lines it’s easy to hear the album as a compilation of sessions of Travis playing his drums while listening to a mix of songs his friend sent him.

The lack of vocal coordination highlights the absence of focus and purpose of the album. Many lyrics are lazy and seem more like 1st-draft verses that didn’t make the cut for other work. This is especially true for artists that are already established and currently hot. Other rappers, like Twista, Raekwon, Bun B, and E-40(!) are clearly trying harder, and their verses are generally much better than their track mates. The same cannot be said for Cypress Hill, who close out the album with a terribly boring song full of cliche rhymes and verses that only highlight their age and irrelevance.

With that said, the album does have its strong points. Songs that incorporate rhyme schemes built around Travis’s drumming and work within the established parameters of the Rap-Rock genre are generally the best. “Carry It,” which features 90’s all-stars RZA, Raekwon, and Tom Morello (of Rage Against the Machine) is one such song. The Tech N9ne and Bun B featured track, “Raw ****,” is another. The other top songs are ironically the same one’s were Travis’s drumming is less at the forefront. “Knockin” is one such example. The speed rap showcase track featuring Busta Ryhmes, Twista, Yelawolf, and Lil John, “Let’s Go,” is another. Travis’s drumming is undoubtedly impressive throughout the entire album, and its nice to hear him incorporate all the sounds available on his expansive drum set. Unfortunately, without a real sense of collaboration between drummer-producer-rapper, many tracks fail to highlight the talents of those involved. In the end however, I actually enjoyed this more than I thought I would. If you move beyond some of the cheesiness and accept the CD as a collection of tracks, and not a comprehensive album, Give The Drummer Some is actually a lot of fun.

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