Deep down inside, everyone wants to be a star. That’s why it’s no surprise that so many beatsmiths are trading in their boards for the mic. Although there’s the occasional success story (Dr. Dre), not everyone is as fortunate. Creating countless hits for some of the game’s top artists since 1998, Swizz Beatz ignores the odds and adds his name to the list of producer turned rapper hopefuls with One Man Band Man. Not counting his 2002 compilation, Swizz Beatz Presents G.H.E.T.T.O. Stories, which was more of a showcase of his production prowess and how many rap friends he had on speed dial, this marks the South Bronx, N.Y., native’s official solo debut as an MC rhyming without any assistance for the majority of the disc.
Living up to his album’s title, Swizzy plays double duty as the sole producer and headlining act. Now, expecting any lyrical wizardry from a producer/rapper not named West is downright futile. Yet, for every weak line—“Engine, engine No. 9/You talkin’ crazy, made you lose ya mind,” on the raucous “Bust Ya Guns”—there are glimpses of MC potential. For instance, “You Know Your Boy Did That” finds a confident Swizz listing his numerous accomplishments over brooding instrumentation (“1999/I did that/Took the hard street shit, and I flipped that/It all started from a little corner scheme/I took it all to a million dollar dream”). The wordplay continues on the organ-fueled “The Funeral” and the somber “Part of the Plan,” with Chris Martin of Coldplay’s soulful vocals on the chorus. On the latter, Swizz spits, “I wish I could fly away on a unicorn/I’m from the ghetto, and every day a human is born/So who cares if I’m stretched out on the scene surrounded by forensic teams.”
Although these bouts of reflection show promise, Swizz’s lyrics take a backseat when he shifts to party mode. Falling in line with his lead single and club smash “It’s Me, Bitches,” Mr. Beatz keeps the energy levels high and the content shallow on the festive booty banger “Money in the Bank.” Then, the producer known for creating multilayered original compositions lazily jacks a Bill Withers sample to pen the ego-trippin’ “Take a Picture” and stunt for the cameras on wax.
Still, if there’s one thing Swizz Beatz can do, it’s get the party started, and he delivers that the rest of the way. Doing what he does best, Da Monsta packs a strong electro-guitar twang and heart-pounding bass line into the catchy “Big Munny.” He continues to get his swag on behind the boards, with anthemic horns and strings carrying “Top Down” to sonic bliss. But it’s the booming “Product Man” that inspires Swizz to brag: “88 million sold, that’s an understatement/Now 100 million units sold, that’s the right statement.”
Clearly, Swizz went into this project trying to prove a point. Aside from Lil Wayne, R. Kelly and Jadakiss on “It’s Me, Bitches (Remix),” the only other rap guest on One Man Band Man is Drag-On, who appears on the aforementioned “Bust Ya Guns.” While the superproducer deserves praise for not falling into the trap of hiding behind a slew of guest appearances, there are pros and cons to going at it for self. For the most part, though, the proven hitmaker masks his lyrical inconsistencies with a bevy of bangin’ beats that should ride out the summer and have cats chillin’ in the Beemer, listenin’ to Swizzle. —SEAN A. MALCOLM