okayplayer Review ninety-four

Written by Wil

Culture VI Records CEO/founder Bugzy Bogart kicks off his solo record Ninety-four with the proclamation that the album is like a look into his own diary. It’s not an unfamiliar concept in hip hop music, but this record does raise the question – how interesting can a boring man’s diary be?

Bogart spends the majority of the record speaking about his role as manager and businessman behind an independent record label that is home to 13 artists, and the struggle of trying to juggle music as both a passion/pastime and as a means to a financial end. While Bogart may be a competent businessman, he is far from an interesting rapper. His vocal presence is weak and his flow can be clumsy at times, causing his already-banal content to sound even more dull and uninspired than it already is. The album’s few feature spots, including verses from Joe Budden, Wordsworth, and Rocy Da 5’9” are welcome and exhilarating breaks in a stream of otherwise-boring emceeing.

Ninety-four’s production style, which mimics the cinematic gravity of the mid-nineties classics from Bad Boy Records, doesn’t do much to alleviate the bloated, tired vibe of the record. Grandiose hip hop production can work, but only when it’s paired with a rapper whose lyrics and delivery match the intensity of the musical backdrop. In this case, the sub-par vocal performances make the epic beats fall flat, coming across almost as a parody of deeply moving music.

While Bogart’s refusal to play a part on wax is commendable (you won’t find any gangster-isms or fantasies here – he’s pretty damn candid and honest about his identity), the problem is that he’s big on details, but falls short when it comes to personality. The stories of a busy CEO of an up-and-coming label should be engaging and worth hearing. But if rapping is as much of a side hustle for Bogart as his narration indicates it is, it might be best if he kept his diary entries to himself and his close circle of friends on the next go-round.

Sean Kantrowitz

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Wil

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