If you are familiar with the world of hip-hop, then you know very well the shooting incident that took place at the T.I. concert held on May 25 in New York’s Irving Plaza. This shooting allegedly involved the crews of rappers Maino and Troy Ave. The incident left Troy Ave shot in the leg, Maino’s girlfriend injured and requiring surgery from a gunshot wound, and Troy Avenue’s bodyguard, Banga, shot dead.
Unfortunately, the only person arrested and charged in the case is the Crown Heights born rapper Troy Ave. In his latest mixtape, Free Troy Ave, which was released on June 6, the rapper uses this as a platform to mount his defense.
Free Troy Ave Mixtape Review
Originally entitled Real vs Fake before the shooting incident, the mixtape is nine tracks of standard hip-hop, interspersed with painful emotional phone calls from the imprisoned Troy Ave speaking about his innocence and the challenges he has faced since his loss of freedom. Plus a bonus track at the end.
“Church Norris” and ”Dealerships” are reminiscent of a 2000’s era 50 Cent. While “Chuck Norris” has a bluesy sound and mood; “Dealership” sounds like a beat for beat tribute to 50’s “Candyshop” it’s a catchy rhythmic tune.
Slick Rick Inspired, “Best Friend” and “I Love the Game” are fun, light, airy tunes that shows off Troy’s playful side and could easily be Troy’s 2016 versions of 2015’s the single “Your Style,” which brought Troy Ave into the mainstream consciousness.
“Thank You Jesus,” in my mind, is the most creative track on the album. This is a sing-song harmony that any other artist would have auto-tuned the hell out of; however in the words of Troy, no auto-tune, “Because you need to keep in 100 with God.”
In view of Troy’s present incarceration I was deeply touched by the two final tracks on the mixtape, “Right Now” and “Mama’s Tears.” “Right Now” is the standard “why I’m great and you ain’t shit” rap song; whereas “Mama’s Tears” is a KRS-One/Slick Rick/Red Head King Pin style fable that’s almost prophetic of Troy’s current situation.
The final track is apparently an unreleased piece performed by Troy’s deceased bodyguard, Banga, called “Grind.” It’s the typical salute to crime and street life. I have mixed feelings on its release, it’s a nice tribute to release his work posthumously. I just wish the song were about something else other than the “Code of the Streets”
In conclusion, Free Troy Ave would be remembered as just another mixtape, but because of the current circumstances surrounding the artist and the timing of the release, it will easily be one of the most remembered pieces of his discography, especially if it becomes his last as a free man.
I’m going to digress for a moment and state I can’t really help but feel some type of way about this album. While it’s a phonetically sound album there really isn’t anything new here. It’s fun and enjoyable but truly not memorable. Some of the track choices feel odd and ironic thinking of Troy’s existing situation.
Personally I’m tired of gangsta rap and all typecasts associated with the genre. The checklist of the songs is there: “Yeah, I’m fucking your girl, son.” “Yeah, I’m the best motherfucker there is, son.” “Yeah, I’m the best drug dealer there is, son.” “Yeah, I will shoot you over a beef, son.”
To me it’s old and tired. Lyrics like these caught rapper C-Murda a prison conviction for homicide in a similar circumstance. Lyrics like these will also likely be used as evidence in the state’s case against Troy Ave.
Troy is a creative rapper who is fun and innovative and he deserves to make an album with better content than this. I think about my colleagues around the office, and just like rappers and drug dealers we hustle, we work hard, and we know the value of the dollar, and hell yes we may fuck your girl.
However, the last thing we would do is come to our place of work with guns, settle beefs with guns, or even associate with people who carry illegal guns. It’s long past time for the rap game to expand beyond these limited world views. Troy could possibly be one of the best in the game if he choose, and it’s time for him to move on other lyrics, images and content.
The best most heartfelt pieces of content on the tape are Troy’s phone calls from prison. He sounds earnest, passionate, heartfelt and regretful. I can only imagine if he gets out of his current situation that the next piece of music he creates will be fire.
In one of his phone calls, he muses wistfully that God knocked him off the top of the hill so that he could climb to the top of the mountain. I hope to see him get there.