Before I actually get to my review or tell you anything at all about this album, I must say you need to go buy this for the production alone. Every beat is flames, and it really enhances an already amazing record.
And with that said…
..Honesty & principles are two things that the majority of the hip-hop genre is lacking in. Everybody is a super duper criminal, who has more guns than a gun store, everybody has more money than your local bank, everybody will kill you on sight if you come at them the wrong way, and everybody is a ladies man that will put your neighborhood gigolo to shame. On top of that, it’s ok to sell out and go against everything you believe in, because in the end your going to get payed (of course in reality, your only going to appear to the public as someone with money, as the majority of your major label artists have nothing in there name, but that’s a whole different editorial). Just listen to any mainstream rap album or mixtape that has come out in the past 12 months and you’ll be sure to hear all those topics touched upon. Coming from a city that has one of the highest murder/crime in general rates in the country, Baltimores own “John Regan” aims to break that mold.
Regan starts things off with the appropriately titled intro, “Sorry I’m Late”. Culture VI in house producer “YZ” provides a great background here, with the sample saying “Sorry I’m Late” over the hook, and Regan apologizing for the mistakes he’s made on his way to this very moment, and this definitely sets the tone for the rest of that album.
If you slept through the intro, you shouldn’t have, but if you did, you will definitely be woken up immediately as “Sorry I’m Late” finishes and “Breath Of Fresh Air” comes on. YZ once again provides the music, and this sounds like something that was supposed to be on Jay-Z’s “The Black Album”, because YZ is doing a great Just Blaze impersonation here. Epic strumming guitars, hard stabs & live drums equate to an undeniable head nodder. Throw in the Lil Fame of M.O.P. adlibs throughout the hook and this record alone could stand out, even if John didn’t rip it to shreds for 4 minutes. A lyrical assault to all the industry created scarface clonies and wack rappers in todays game, and he finished off the funeral in great fashion with:
“See we don’t need you, and we don’t want that/
so grab your little rhyme book, and please don’t come back/
so you sold a few tapes, and packing a crowd but/
your rhymes don’t hold weight, and your lacking nostalgia/
and that ain’t hip-hop, this ain’t mainstream/
I’m just a nightmare that’s invading your daydreams, welcome to Elm Street/”
The mood goes from epic to melancholy quickly, and that’s not a bad thing at all. Next in Regans diary is “Yesterday” featuring heavyweight Joell Ortiz & Meylin providing the vocals on the hook. Both MC’s take a look into there past and pour it out to you the listener. Shockingly enough you’d expect a newcomer like Regan to be out shined by the vet Joell, but he holds his own and the two combine for a deep record, that is sure to send goosebumps up and down your body. YZ again provides a phenomenal piece of music for the 2 to rock over (no pun intended) and the two don’t disappoint.
“She Loves Me Not” continues to the guitar work, with the music this time being provided by long time Joe Budden collaborator, the very underrated Dub-B and his Junkyard Gang. Regan compares his love to the timeless game of picking petals from a flower to determine if one loves you. This is a how a hip-hop love track should sound to say the least.
Next up is “Nobody’s Somebody” featuring the extremely underrated “Nottz”, with production coming from Nottz & 88 Keys. Whereas in the industry the norm would be sell your soul over for material possessions, Regan gives a middle finger to the industry.
“So I came in a fiery blaze, they deemed me a sleeping giant/
But I’d rather be a midget wide awake/
Because them dreams turn to nightmares here/
But don’t take my words highly, sincerely yours, Nobody”
Nottz comes correct aswell, and the stripped down production fits great here.
“All I Got To Give” is another very personal record for John, which features the lovely Marsha Ambrosius, and boy does she shine here. Hip-Hop music originated in the struggle and this is the type of music that someone going through a struggle now can relate too, and that’s what people look to music for. A voice that can make people feel like there not alone, and this is a very inspirational record, over beautiful piano work from YZ. If there were a single to this album, this could definitely be playing non stop on radio stations across the country, if the radio played positive music that is.
“Paint The World” featuring Pack FM is up next, and the hip-hop feel continues. This song reminds me of something that would have come out of Rawkus in the late 90s. A boom bap drum pattern & scratches over the hook, “Paint The World” is about one of the most forgotten elements of hip-hop, Graffiti. Regan used to tag under the moniker “Poizun”, and he confesses his love for “Painting The World”.
Common starts things off on “She & H.E.R.” with some sampled lines from his classic “I used to love her”. Regan spins a tale of his love for his old girl at home, yet he still lusts for hip-hop, and how his love for both women effects the other. The concept of comparing women to hip-hop has been done before, but it sounds refreshing here, Regan definitely paint’s a vivid picture. Needlz scratches up the hook here, and his emotional strings set the tone.
I would have to say if there was a “weak link” in “Sorry I’m Late”‘s production, it would be on the “9:57 Interlude”. But that doesn’t stop John from making a great record, touching on many different topics, the politics of the game among other things.
“I gotta go pay these producers/
Who are only hot cause of who they produce for/
And that’s how the game go/
Me and MC-Yo could have the same flow/
and spit the same on the record/
But if he has a big name on his record/
then once they catch wind, DJ so and so gon’ help him get spins/”
The light hearted beat from the previous interlude is shot down by Needlz on “Suicide Edicius”, with haunting yet uplifting strings, and Needlz trademark hard drum work. Regan mixes one part Suicide, with the other part being Nas’ “Rewind” and what you have here, is quite possibly the best song on the album. I don’t want to ruin the tear jerker of a song, but this is definitely a track you must peep.
As we come to the final part of the album, YZ brings the soulful production back in for Regan & brooklyn MC Skyzoo to rhyme over on “One Day In Heaven”. Though Regan has a great heartfelt verse describing his perfect day, it’s Skyzoo who is the only feature on the album to outshine John. S.K.Y. brings the listener into his past, telling the thoughts going through his head during the day of September 11th, 2001, telling them about how his mom worked in the World Trade Center and the events in his life during that sad day.
“Stars” comes in at number 12, with another personal record about how he got into the hip-hop game, and the hip-hop game in general. This would have been perfect as the outro, seeing as how the last minute is John shouting out all the people involved in the project, and this is truly a beautiful record overall. From John telling you to reach for the stars, to the hook telling you how he can’t wait for his prayers to be answered.
The last two songs on the album are “Devils Eye” featuring Ill Bill, and “Up There With You” featuring Sha Stimuli & Naledge, respectively. Though both are good songs, after John summing up his project on “Stars”, they do feel a bit like bonus tracks rather than an actual part of “Sorry I’m Late”. “Devils Eye” deals with John asking God to help guide him as the Devil keeps an eye on him, and it’s the type of song that everyday people like me and you, can definitely relate too, while “Up There With You” is about the loss of loved ones, with each MC holding there own, but John shining brightest.
In my opinion, no matter who the artist is, even if it’s as someone as superficial as a “Rick Ross”, when they take off the Superman costume and stop trying to be the superhero to the entire world, and hop out of the phone booth as Clark Kent, and make music that’s true to them, from there heart, they will always make there best music. Johns debut album reads like a Diary and it’s better for it. John isn’t the best lyricist, he doesn’t have the best delivery, or rhyme schemes, and there are people who flow better than him, but what John has that most lack, is the ability to write a true heart felt song that will always leave a much longer lasting impression that a song about how much money you get.
As John continues to grow as a hip-hop artist I’m sure he’ll improve on all those qualities, but until then, John is indeed a breath of fresh air as track 2 stated. If hip-hop is indeed on life support, I think John is one of the key parts of the defibrillator needed to bring it back. Move over J. Cole, because at this point, the rookie with the best project out is Mr. John Regan, sorry he’s late.
Album Rating: 4.75/5
BONUS: Here’s a song that me & all city boss 8 bars produced for John Regan, to promote his album! http://www.djbooth.net/index/tracks/review/john-regan-reganomics/