After a decade plus of sparse production, Swizz Beatz returns to the Hip Hop scene to deliver a well needed palette cleanser in an supersaturated market.

Poison represents more than album to Swizz Beatz catalog, it acts as a symbol representing how Swizz Beatz is a channel from the peak of early 2000’s Hiphop to the dawn of a new age, in particular the dawn of a new sound. Poison was crafted through the creation process of three other projects that all fill the voids that Swizz feels the music world needs. Poison represents the first domino to fall, and is a taste of what we could expect for the latter trio of albums.

The legendary producer seems to subvert and flip the common, modern way of analyzing albums to create a foreign experience. Although a dying art, Poison makes an impression on face value with it’s eyecatching artwork.The album artwork, titled “End of Empire”, was created by Los Angeles-based artist Cleon Peterson, and represents upending the system, taking power back from the corrupt. Sound’s familiar? As an album, Swizz allows the album to become about the artists rather than himself. Swizz becomes a background factor, as producers should be(minus his beloved adlibs), creating an atmosphere that allows artists to operate in their world while building a track around them, transcending the artists to the caliber of the legendary Swizz Beatz(albeit some of the artists he works with are on said level).

Looking at the past few hundred words, there are words that should be synonymous with great producers. “Build”, “create”, “atmosphere” all pointing to what Swizz truly is; an architect of music. Swizz selflessness peaks when he differs to other producers like AraabMuzik, MusicMan Ty and Avery Chambliss to produce cuts of the project that he is more than capable to create. With architect Swizz latest  10-track project he includes a starry lineup,blending the old with the new headlined by Kendrick Lamar, Nas, Pusha T, Young Thug and Lil Wayne. The previously-released singles “Pistol by My Side,” “25 Soldiers” and “Preach” all reside on the Swizz Beatz  project with the aid of executive producer J. Cole.

Letting a rejuvenated Lil Wayne spit on the mic first, effectively ushering in a new era of Wayne’s career. Over some iconic keys and the high energy that Swizz provides, Weezy goes bonkers on “Pistol on My Side (P.O.M.S.),” picking up where his impressive Carter V left off. Speaking of a new era, Young Thug’s “25 Soldiers” finds him laying off the heavy Auto-Tune and actually going in with some of his strongest bars in 2018—and just like the project itself he’s providing a breath of fresh air.

It’s fitting that Swizz has very limited exposure throughout the project. He seems to learn from his mistakes from 2007’s One Man Band  and understands as a producer. His mic time declines exponentially from his first album to this one, with Swizz clocking in for his typical hypeman duties or a  mini-verse or two. Those moments provide a well needed third dimension to the tracks.

“Come Again” is a match made in grim heaven with Giggs and Swizz Beatz sounding like rap villains both lyrically and vocally, creating a track that is fitting for a supervillian in a BET movie. Giggs holds it down for the UK as he spits venom with wicked talk of busting guns, finessing women and outflexing n***as  Giggs does organically on his raps, hence the reason why you believe every word he says.

With “producing” as the craft, Swizz treats Poison as an outlet for the artists he features stopping short of letting the kids run the classroom.  Swizz makes sure everyone knows Swizz is still the principal. but lets each of them into a space with beats where they’ll be most comfortable, which usually causes them to provide flashes of their best work. The standout track of the project is when Swizz gets Pusha T, Hip Hop’s beloved dope dealer, theorizing the effects of his past life have on various project and communities on “Cold Blooded”.  To say the very least, Swizz brings out some of Pushas best lyrics unlike another produce Push consistently works with. ehem.

Rappers of yesteryear seem to be reinvented and excited to be working alongside Swizz once again. Swizz draws Nas away from the hellhole  of self destruction Kanye brought and ushers him back into viewing things from a birds eye view, where he uses that vision that made Illmatic as one of the most revered projects of all time  to eulogize the old New York.The producer also gives a flashback circa-2006 gets the best verses out of Jim Jones and lets him work like a Heavyweight Boxer in the championship rounds. Swizz lays the foundation for Jadakiss and Styles P rekindle their iconic partnership with iconic results and Kendrick provides another layer to their track(“Something Dirty/Pic Got Us”).

The album closer “SwizzMontana” features Swizz Beatz doing the most Swizz Beatz thing and it could’ve been lifted from any early 2000’s Swizz tracks—and although  French Montana says nothing of any substance, he seems to be having a ton of fun doing it and matches Swizz energy. Poison is a prime example that confidence can come in the form of sound, and solidifies that Swizz Beatz is the best salesmen in rap.

When Swizz says “we get one”,I genuinely believe the song we hear Swizz say that is the greatest track of all time. Poison shows Swizz’s as a veteran in the game from years in the industry and every song is a testament to the work Swizz has put in. If Swizz continues the same momentum his same iconic bounce will ride out for the next 3 projects he has in store, other iconic producers will get the urge to show up to match the NY producer’s body of work.

Grade: 10/10

Best Tracks: P.O.M.S. Cold Blooded, Something Dirty,Preach,Echo, 25 Soliders,SWIZZMONTANA.

 

 

Ananth Para
paramana@mcmaster.ca

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