Hip-hop homeboy

As Detroit debuts go, Bulletproof is closer to Kid Rock’s Devil Without a Cause than Eminem’s Slim Shady LP. Eminem has always been a character, but Hush — longtime Em’ homey and fellow white rapper — has been unfairly, if understandably, compared to him (see the scathing Bulletproof review in Rolling Stone).

Hush, like Em’, is as skilled a producer as he is a rapper, maybe more so. And like Kid Rock, Hush has made such an ambitious major label debut — it boasts collaborations with Eminem and Talib Kweli — that he makes rock-rap new again. It may take a year of touring to introduce people to Hush and where he’s coming from.

To his credit, Hush is not so much out to make jeep beats on Bulletproof as write songs. But he’s as good at the jeep beats as he is the songs, so we get both.

Some are fist-jacking anthems; "Fired Up" and "Put ’Em Down" offer surly, muttering synths and short, sharp shocks of guitar that prove hip hop took as much gusto from rock as rap. Hush spits with the same internal rhyme schemes of an Eminem or a Biggie Smalls with typical rap bravado: "When your dog’s too limp for biscuits call for this shit."

If there’s a fault with Bulletproof, it’s that it plays the major label game too well. Eminem can lose himself, but Hush is too grown-up for that. On "Hush is Coming," he knows how to make an anthem sound big, and a hook from Tha Dogg Pound’s Nate Dogg keeps the clang urgent. He raps damn near as competently as Em’ might, but he’s not some crazy character out to shock you. He’s a blue-collar emcee from Detroit trying to get paid.

It’s all good, which is why, for all the styles he’s juggling to find his own, it takes him some effort to sound great.

Hobey Echlin writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].

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