Nearly 30 years after Chuck D infamously dubbed the King of Rock'n'Roll a "straight up racist" sucker, David Banner is following suit by dedicating an entire track to shameless cultural appropriation. On "Elvis," a highlight from the Southern rapper's new album The God Box, Banner defiantly spits, "Don't let them take hip-hop like they took rock'n'roll" before asking, "What you rappin' for, if you don't look like Macklemore?" Sirens punctuate the song's crackling, 808-rife instrumental and Banner's feisty flow, leaving little room for subtlety but plenty of space for the kind of righteous fury that's been repressed for far too long. When Banner sticks to sociology, The God Box is masterful.
Unfortunately, he felt the need to bog the proceedings down with too many empty booty jams. One of the worst examples is "Cleopatra Jones," on which he compares his schlong to Einstein because it has a "mind of its own" before lusting after the muse that he named the lewd tune after. Its Super Nintendo synths and overly epic trap percussion make the whole thing quickly spill over into self-parody. Then Banner shows even poorer judgment by following "Cleopatra Jones" with "Marry Me," a saccharine ballad about romantic devotion that makes Banner sound like a clown, if not a hypocrite. Then, as if to outdo himself, he follows that with "Judy Blare," yet another disastrous sex anthem with a refrain about putting a "model body" with the legs of Wonder Woman "up in the air" over a chorus that sounds like it's being sung by Chad Kroeger or one of his arena rock clones. To call it a misguided trilogy of tunes would be generous.
Thankfully, the deeper cuts find Banner in fine form. On "Black Fist," he ruthlessly spits about "blood on the leaves, blood on the streets…" over an equally fearsome beat. "AK" is another angry anthem, but has a rap-rock instrumental that works where that of "Judy Blare" failed thanks to its tighter drum samples and loftier tone. Its lyrics also put "AK" over the top, as they address slavery and the crack addiction that plagued Banner's uncle.
On "Magnolia," Banner raps in a thrilling snarl about having a noose forever looped around his neck, as he "paints pictures of scriptures" while these "crackers keep stacking their army." CeeLo Green's crooning proves to be a fine counterpoint for Banner's acidic flow on that song, while also snugly complementing the vintage Southern soul instrumental.
If Banner had focused on such biting social commentary, this would have been one of 2017's best rap LPs. Sadly, his goofy misogynistic tunes make The God Box sound less than divine. (A Banner Vision)