It’s almost amazing to think that A.G. has been spitting on record for 20 years now. First appearing as Lord Finesse’s rhyming partner in 1990, A.G. aka Andre the Giant is best known for his team-ups with producer Show (fka Showbiz) for the CLASSIC albums Runaway Slave and Goodfellas, and as a member of the Diggin’ in the Crates (D.I.T.C.) crew. Both Show and A.G. full-lengths and his work as a member of D.I.T.C. were defining examples of New York-based early to mid-1990s dusty groove, Timberlands and hoodies fashion, and Boom-Bap Hip-Hop. A.G. and the D.I.T.C. persevered through New York’s extended love affair with shiny-suit rap, independently releasing 12”s and albums, one of the best being A.G.’s underappreciated Get Dirty Radio. A.G. was last heard on the mostly ignored Oasis, a collaboration with his D.I.T.C. partner O.C. Everything’s Berri, his team-up with producer Ray Berri/Ray West, is a solidly constructed, musically interesting departure from the type of album A.G. usually creates.
In terms of construction and, at times, sound, Everything’s Berri, has more in common with albums by J Dilla, Count Bass D, or MF DOOM than it does any of the Show & A.G. collaborations. Many of the tracks feature a maximum of two verses, and most are under three minutes in length (the entire 17-track album is less than 45 minutes long). For the most part, the beats are light and airy, straight two or four loops, with minimal drums (if any) added to them. The seemingly simple approach establishes the album’s mood and feel almost out of the gate. A.G.’s flow, usually aggressive, is instead laid back and care free. This result is an almost dreamy summer album that has more in common with a glass of iced tea than a 40 oz. of brew.
About as close as “Everything’s Berri” gets to A.G.’s D.I.T.C. style is the album’s opening track “On the Black (3rd Ave. Spot).” Over hard-hitting drums, A.G. spins his tales of life growing up in the South Bronx. From there, the album wades into the much mellower musical waters. With “Infected,” A.G. speaks on the trials of trying to walk the positive path in an environment of a smooth synth tones, sparse drums, and repeating vocal sample last heard on Vordul’s “Neva Again.” Tracks like “I Wanna Chill” and “Fuck the Club,” serve as low-key anti-swag tracks, with A.G. explaining on the former who he’d often rather spend time at home on a weekend night than running around, spending his money around town. A track like “Tweet Heart” shows how much hip-hop has changed, with A.G. bragging about the women he bags on Facebook, spitting game on Skype, and his Tweet followers. Despite sounding slightly corny, the bouncy vocal and guitar samples make it work.
Everything’s Berri also features four tracks completely without an A.G. verse, as homies/crew members like Party Arty and 950Plus get a little shine. The best of these “berries” is “Marcberri,” which features a hot 16 by the U.N.’s Roc Marciano, who spits such low-key fire as, “Flows are told to grandkids about older bandits who wear Stan Smiths and blam their cannons/Stay on the low like a phantom, homes are ran in/ hoes panic, been sailing since panoramic.”
One of the album’s high points is “Xenobia,” perhaps the album's most traditionally constructed track. Over a meandering flute loop, A.G. creates the most vivid visuals on the album, with A.G. explaining to his friends on the block, in the midst of a funeral procession, how he’s gotta keep on struggling to make his music career happen. The album’s best track is “Destroy Rebuild Repeat.” After boasting that he’s “cut from the cloth of Mele Mel’s outfit in Beat Street”, he adds “I’m on point like CP 3, 2, 1, zero, and ya hero ain’t nothin’ but a sandwich to me/ So back up, you standing where the camera should be/ I’m out of this world, massa got scanners on me.”
The albums only real weak-point are the often lazy and uninspired hooks. While “Fuck the Club’s” has slight goofy charm, it’s certainly preferable to the embarrassment of the hook on “No She Didn’t,” where A.G. incessantly repeats the track’s title over and over again.
Everything’s Berri shows that A.G. can step out his established comfort zone as an artist, without sacrificing his integrity in the process. It’s not often that an artist that spent the last 20 years of his career making one style of hip-hop, switch his style up without compromising it. A.G. may not be the rapper you’d most expect to make a laid-back summer chill album, but with Everything’s Berri, he’s made a damn good one.
Written By Jesse Ducker