Welcome to the first ever ‘Paying Respects’, a series in which we revisit some form of media, and see how that holds up in today’s crazy world.
Back in early 2017 the state hip-hop had felt kinda stale for me. Sure, you had your mainstays Kendrick Lamar and J Cole pumping out some quality tunes, but truthfully, I found it hard to enjoy anything new from the scene. I understand rap and hip-hop gotta do new things to stay fresh – and that’s fine. I get it. But nothing was grabbing me. I had a run of disappointment followed by disappointment. I had been hurt before, and I didn’t know if I could love again…
Thankfully I was wrong. PACKS from Your Old Droog was exactly what I was looking for. The Ukrainian-New Yorkian’s PACKS is a follow up to his 2014 self-titled joint, which wasn’t that well received. When he released his breakout EP it had people thinking Nas was writing good music again, and I can see why. PACKS is PACKed (see what I did there?) with back-to-back diamonds, with beats reminiscent of that 90’s, East-Coast/New York vibe.
Being a throwback to a time in music that I hold dear isn’t enough to make a good album, but being able to tell stories with your music does. Droog is a phenomenal lyricist that spins these engaging narratives as opposed to just writing pop/rap. The lead track ‘Gotta Kill A Cop’ (G.K.A.C) is a prime example of this. The title would suggest it’s a political statement, but it’s far from that. It’s a story of a junkie that’s as high as my hopes and dreams, and paranoid as all hell. The “protagonist” of the story gives into the voices in his head, and well… kills a cop. The song is written in a way that you don’t feel for the protagonist, but you’re still dying to hear what happens in the next verse. It’s dark, it’s gritty, and a damn solid intro track. From there I was hooked like a junkie is to crack.
PACKS wasn’t without its flaws though. Throughout the album there are skits presented in the form of a radio show, and honestly, it kinda ruins the pace of the album. It makes it that much more of a cliché to the 90’s and early 2000’s joints it’s reminiscent of. Any sense of originality which was presented in the songwriting just goes straight out the window.
Overall, PACKS was a good return to form for Droog. But and more importantly, it was a damn solid hip-hop album, and easily one of the highlights of 2017. But the question is how does in hold up two-years after its release? PACKS oozes respect to hip-hop that came before it. PACKS is filled with grimey, NYC/boom bap beats, and it’s to a point you’d be forgiven for thinking this dropped in 95′. But the storytelling aspect of this album brings it forward to 2017, and those stories are still relevant. I highly recommend this album to hip-hop lovers new and old.
Written by Tom Higgins