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NGZ 20 Year Anniversary Series: C-Murder – Bossalinie [Album Review]

Exploding during hip hop’s golden era, the mafioso sub-genre had everyone from Jay-Z to Tupac Shakur playing the role of a Don, Capo or mobster. Never one to shy away from trends or waves, No Limit Records and their army of soldiers took it a step further. The entire roster was almost always decked out in expensive suits, smoking Cuban cigars and sporting the flossiest of diamonds. Label CEO, Master P, coined himself “Da Last Don” while younger brothers, Silkk The Shocker and C-Murder, took on the aliases of a “Made Man” and “Bossalinie”, respectively. To further capitalize on the popularity of both No Limit and the mafioso movement, advertisements for new Silkk and C albums of the same name were being promoted less than four months after the release of their last full-length projects.

Immediate follow-ups weren’t an uncommon move for No Limit (Master P was already promoting his retirement album, Da Last Don, by the time his magnum opus, Ghetto Dope, dropped) but it required careful finesse if the label was to maintain its place at the top of the rap game. For C-Murder to continue growing as an artist, he couldn’t usher out a carbon copy of his stellar debut, Life Or Death, no matter how well-received it was. Ironically enough, P’s “retirement”, and subsequent foray into professional basketball, loosened the reigns of the company musically and C’s mafia-themed Bossalinie benefited as a result.

What likely would’ve sounded similar to any other No Limit project released in late ‘98 took on a different identity early on in the creative process. C-Murder recruited various rappers and producers from outside of the No Limit camp, expanding his audience and solidifying his reputation as a solo artist capable of anchoring the label in his brother’s absence. Released on March 9, 1999 (C’s 28th Birthday), Bossalinie debuted at no. 2 on the Billboard 200 and was certified gold shortly thereafter.

Bossalinie opens up with a piano-driven, Godfather-ish “Intro.” Thematically, it’s a subtle sign of the transition from the gloomy Life Or Death to the made life of C’s new alter ego. What follows is “Ghetto Boy”, a street single featuring Mac and the twins, Kane & Abel. This song found success in clubs across the south and concludes with a hilarious outro where C, Kane & Abel and KLC depict just how ghetto they are:

“I’m ghetto like using mayonnaise jars for glasses!”

“I’m ghetto like putting a phone bill in ya baby’s name!”

“I’m ghetto like a nigga getting burnt by the same hoe twice!”

The upbeat fun of “Ghetto Boy” quickly fades, however, with the album’s first official single – “Like A Jungle.” It features a bleak backdrop where C enters unchartered territory, touching on a number of politically-themed topics. It’s here where his whispery slur and delivery thrives most. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message” serves as inspiration for the hook and works perfectly.

Snoop Dogg joins C for “Gangsta Walk”, a song that would’ve sounded comfortably at home on any one of Snoop’s later No Limit releases. Both artists bring their best to this breezy left coast cut and compliment each other’s styles impeccably. The “Skit” that piggybacks off it, though, is nothing more than a pointless Eddie Griffin interlude over the same instrumental. While on the topic of skits, this is one area that plagues Bossalinie throughout. Boasting 28 “songs”, it’s worth mentioning that 8 of them are a combination of an intro, outro, interludes and unnecessary skits. We’ll address each one on an individual basis but they’re often hard to ignore, consistently interrupting the flow of quality work.

Living Legend” marks the first appearance of the colonel, Master P, and despite going through what was easily the most tumultuous year of his career in 1999 – he doesn’t sound forced or out of place here. The song is a simplistic, meat-and-potatoes cut but it works. Fiend and Silkk The Shocker accompany C-Murder on the UGK-flavored “Money Talks.” This is one of the finest tracks on Bossalinie, with Fiend absolutely slaughtering the bridge. “Streets Keep Callin” would, at first glance, appear to be more thuggish bravado but C takes a different approach for this slower number. The Sons Of Funk’ Dez softly croons the hook as C details how escaping the streets isn’t as simple as making some money and walking away.

WBalls” is the 2nd of several skits, and is C-Murder’s attempt at recreating Doggystyle’s infamous interludes of the same name. Where the skit fails on Bossalinie, though, is the absence of any comedic value. Clocking in at a paltry 20 seconds, this track is nothing more than a lob to the fantastic collaboration, “Ghetto Millionaire.” C-Murder and Tha Dogg Pound Gangsta collective (Nate Dogg, Snoop Dogg and Kurupt) are all in top form, effortlessly flowing over an eerie, LT Hutton-produced posse cut. The chemistry is so sharp on “Ghetto Millionaire” that one might mistake C for a full-fledged D.P.G. member. Much like “Like A Jungle” and “Streets Keep Callin” earlier, C-Murder shows immense growth as an artist with “Lord Help Us” – a pleading, yet hopeful, song complete with a plethora of biblical references. He balances questioning God about the woes of the world without sounding defeated or overly critical.

Unfortunately, Bossalinie’s momentum is momentarily derailed with “Bitch Niggas”, a skit I have a hard time describing because it has nothing to do with anything. Thankfully, O’Dell returns to the boards for “On My Enemies”, C-Murder’s tribute to Tupac Shakur. If the title of this song sounds familiar, it’s likely because any fan of No Limit is also a fan of Tupac and has probably heard Pac’s original version of this (unreleased) track before. Calling it a tribute wasn’t enough to pacify No Limit’s detractors though. Because C essentially recreated both of Pac’s verses, this only added to criticism that No Limit shamelessly bit Tupac to no end. Judge it how you will but it’s still enjoyable at its core.

Freedom” is another attempt by C-Murder to step outside of his comfort zone and touch on a number of social issues. It’s worked to this point of the album, but comes up just short here. From the leaky sink production to Porsha’s overly churchy chorus, “Freedom” is a rare swing-and-miss. Master P returns for “Lil Nigga” but only long enough to rehash a chorus used on a prior Steady Mobb’n record (also, coincidentally, titled “Lil Niggas”). Ke’Noe’s ominous production hits but C would’ve been better off keeping this one for himself; his lone verse and outro are a highlight.

The only Dogg Pound member to have not yet contributed to Bossalinie finally does, as Daz Dillinger shows up for the appropriately-titled “Murder & Daz.” Daz has long been one of the more underrated producers of all time but hands this duty over to the up-and-coming LT Hutton, who again provides C-Murder a bouncing bass line to trade verses on.

**Side Note: This collaboration caused a major rift between Dillinger and Death Row Records CEO, Suge Knight, after Knight publicly condemned Daz collaborating with No Limit artists (likely because he was still salty about Snoop jumping ship).**

The “Piano” skit is a continuation of interruptions that don’t belong on this album. An uncredited crooner begins with, what sounds like, a love ballad but proceeds to detail how the the girl he hooked up with had a horrible yeast infection – pass on this. C-Murder picks it back up with “Nasty Chick”, a scathing shot at an ex that broke his heart by cheating on him with his closest friend(s). Sons of Funk frontman, Rico, provides a cool, laid-back vibe for this one. And while there have been many dedications to the Millers’ slain brother, Kevin, “I Remember” is one that feels a bit more personal for C:

“I remember growing up, with 5 kids, we ain’t have nothing…but each other and I think ‘damn I miss my brother’
I give a shout out to my moms, she was there for me
Even though, sometimes, I felt she never cared for me”

It’s a sad reflection on achieving the success and wealth he so desperately coveted, but losing his brother and best friend in the process. Magic adds a verse but it’s traditional tale of the come-up pales when compared to C’s open letter to his older brother. DJ E-Z Dick returns for a brief “Dedication”, a quick 15 second skit that’s only purpose is to introduce the next song. “Where We Wanna” is a rare No Limit/Dungeon Family collaboration, with the critically-acclaimed Goodie Mob serving up some Atlanta “soul food” over KLC’s production. This collaboration looks great on paper but, after listening to it a few times, the listener is left wanting just a bit more. It’s a solid track, but only C-Murder and Cee-Lo bring their best efforts.

Don’t Wanna Be Alone” is C again expermimenting with new concepts, this time targeting a pop-friendly ladies cut. The glossy production is refreshing but the song itself won’t do much for his core fan base, and isn’t long enough to be taken seriously as a single. “Still Makin Moves” follows and acts as a sequel to Life Or Death’s successful street single, “Makin Moves.” Mo B. Dick and Master P reprise their roles but this follow-up resembles the original a little too closely and ends up sounding recycled. Speaking of Life Or Death, who could forget QB’s debut on its “Commercial”? Although it clocked in at just over a minute, it was enough for fans to start clamoring for his No Limit debut, Ghetto Ingredients. He returns on Bossalinie for “Can’t Hold Me Back”, an excellent teaser with a hard-hitting 16 and slick hook. It’s a shame Ghetto Ingredients never saw the light of day…

Phone Call” is the rare skit that succeeds in providing some comedy. A goofy white “aspiring artist” named Jim Shoe Loco somehow got his hands on C-Murder’s phone number and decided to shop his demo at 5:30am. It concludes with C threatening to kill him, his sister, his aunt, his dog and the four roaches in his house. Damn. At this point, we’re 25 songs into Bossalinie and you’re probably thinking – what left is there to say that hasn’t already been said? Well, it turns out C-Murder left the album’s strongest offerings for its conclusion.

Ride On Dem Bustas” is, simply put, one of the best songs the Tank has ever produced. Ke’Noe opens the track with a haunting piano and piercing synths before topping it off with a deep bass line straight out of the swamps of Louisiana. C-Murder holds nothing back, calling out all “yellow belly” bustas with “poo stained draws”, while the beat’s slow groove allows guests Magic and Mr. Serv-On to attack with a perfectly executed start-and-stop staccato. In similar fashion, “Closin’ Down Shop” is nothing short of southern perfection. Soulja Slim, although incarcerated at the time, re-emerges (on what was likely a song that barely missed Give It 2 Em Raw) to depict the pressures of running a crackhouse when the block is hot. C-Murder and Magic are equally as impressive, with C’s flow perfectly riding the beat:

“2 baby mamas, 4 kids, 3 Mac-11s, 3 cars…
About 13 boo boos, I’m just a ghetto superstar
On parole, convicted felon, known for 187s
And 211s – a young nigga down to do whatever”

The album then fades as it opened, calmly exiting with a soft piano “Outro” that brings forth visions of made men dining on fine cuisine while discussing their next hit; a truly fitting ending.

Bossalinie, while not as consistent as Life Or Death or as unapologetic as Trapped In Crime, is lauded as C’s bold step out of No Limit’s repetitious formula and should be viewed as a strong effort with a few minor missteps. Had it been stripped down to 18-20 songs, it’d likely rank much higher in the No Limit catalogue. Even with its ups and downs though, most southern hip hop purists will find themselves revisiting C-Murder’s sophomore album for its undeniable high points. “Ghetto Millionaire” and “Ride On Dem Bustas”, along with a slew of others, can go toe-to-toe with anything released in 1999 and that alone makes this one worth copping.

Overall Vibes: 8.3/10

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