Stop Playin'

Chinaman / 2 Live Crew

Biggest Hits Music / Chinaman Records, 2003

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Chris Wong Won, better known as Fresh Kid Ice of 2 Live Crew fame, has seen his share of ups and downs in his career as a rapper. He's seen the band he co-founded at the top of the publicity heap and has sold millions of albums over the years. He's also seen 2 Live Crew go through more lineup changes than a baseball team stricken with food poisoning, to the point where he literally is 2 Live Crew at this stage in the game.

So it does make sense to credit Stop Playin' to both Won and 2 Live Crew, even if he shares the spotlight with numerous up and coming rappers (some of whom prove they have the talent to make names for themselves), and while there are some weak moments on this disc, it does suggest that 2 Live Crew is taking the right steps toward launching a full-scale comeback.

With a basis in Won's 2000 solo disc Still Nasty (where it appears a few of these songs first took life), the Trinidad-born rapper still can dish out the sexual lingo and make a sailor blush with some of his rhymes. But this aspect of 2 Live Crew seems to have toned down significantly -- sure, you still have songs like "Gimme The Pussy," but it sometimes feels like Won is trying to create a Montell Jordan-style groove behind the raps, as heard on songs like "Shake Junk Queen" and "Chinaman (In Ya Life)." It's a more mature sound to the raps, and it works well with the style of rap that Won is delivering here.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

There are some audio throwbacks to the old days, like on "Booty Drop" and "Still Nasty (As He Wanna Be)," but to Won's credit, he seems to use these to tie his past in with the present, and the mixture works well. In a sense, Won is to be credited that he doesn't try to coast on the coattails of his past, choosing instead to hint to it while pushing his raps and music forward.

This doesn't always work as well as Won would like -- especially on the title track, which also serves as the first single. It's not that the track is bad, but Won's vocals seem to be buried in the mix -- something especially noticeable when other rappers Fish-N-Grits, Big Will and SIN can be heard relatively clearly.

The instrumental version of "Stop Playin'" -- which, in all honesty, only shows how much the samples are missed at times -- also suggests that when 2 Live Crew tries to keep the songs simple in their structure, they run the risk of becoming stale very quickly. With no real variation in the musical backbone of this track, one is left to question if it will have the staying power of older songs like "Me So Horny".

Still, Won holds his own remarkably well, getting help from such rappers as Madd Blunted ("Shake It" -- with a dancehall reggae groove that is infectious -- and "Gettin' High"), Men-E-Faces ("Shake Junk Queen") SPIN and MC Madness ("Booty Drop"). With all of this, though, I did find myself wishing that Won had depended less on other rappers and stuck to delivering more of the raps himself. Granted, 2 Live Crew has always been a collaborative effort. But, as said before, Won is 2 Live Crew, at least until he determines who else would fit the group well.

Chances are the average listener will go into Stop Playin' not expecting much from 2 Live Crew, especially with former Svengali Luther Campbell long gone from their spotlight. But Won makes a solid case with this disc, and even dares to hint that 2 Live Crew could well be on the cusp of a full-fledged comeback. With Stop Playin', he proves that he's on the road there, but that the journey is still continuing.

Rating: B-

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© 2003 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Biggest Hits Music / Chinaman Records, and is used for informational purposes only.