8Ball & MJG
The current wave of Southern dominance has resuscitated the careers of pioneers like UGK and Three 6 Mafia. Unfortunately, 8Ball & MJG haven’t been able to add their name to that list of born-again stars just yet. In 2004, the Memphis duo tried to cash in, but their unfocused Bad Boy disc Living Legends derailed those plans. So on their seventh album, Ridin’ High, Ball & G go back to the basics and let their raw chemistry run wild.
Reminiscent of their 1993 debut, Comin’ Out Hard, Ball & G’s latest effort highlights their mastery of the art of storytelling. The synth-seared “Get Low” finds the duo in the middle of a chaotic club shoot-out, while 8Ball uses the B Rock–produced “Memphis” as an opportunity to detail his upbringing (“Orange Mound born, I was torn out my mama womb/Shotgun house, me and mama had the same room”).
The pimpin’ punch lines are just as vivid on the sweaty symphony “Stand Up” and the throbbing “Turn Up Da Bump.” But it’s the laid-back boom of “Like This” that gives MJG an opportunity to coyly confess, “My last girl couldn’t change me, she tried twice/I got more dog in me than beef fried rice.”
Sincerity seems to be Ball & G’s strongpoint, that’s what makes their botched attempts at smoothed-out sex appeal so disheartening. Jazze Pha sounds like a parody of himself swooning on the cliché-ridden “Pimpin’ Don’t Fail Me Now,” and producer Midnight Black’s sweet keys don’t improve the bizarre combination of 112 and Three 6 Mafia on the cheesy ballad “Cruisin’.”
The Living Legends fair better on the Miami bass–coated title track, where they effectively keep their cool amid Diddy’s ecstatic ad-libs. MJG explains their newfound key to success best on “Fuck That,” spittin’, “Fuck sittin’ down tryin’ to make a tailor-made radio single and the shit still don’t get played.” Ride high or die.—BRENDAN FREDERICK