The Next Spot is a recurring series dedicated to the albums that could’ve, would’ve, should’ve made the Decade Top 50.
Michael Render first attracted attention with his guest appearances on Outkast’s “Snappin’ And Trappin’” and “The Whole World”, but he never sounded completely at ease over Dungeon Family space-funk. I Pledge Allegiance II is backed by a line-up of mostly unknown producers providing simple but effective bangers that perfectly conform to Mike’s fiery bark.
Channeling Tony Robbins on the intro, Mike explains that the album is meant to soundtrack your success. He’s less interested in telling listeners how much money he has and more about talking about how to get that Yet hustling is only one facet of the grind and Mike wears many masks over the album’s 17 tracks: motivational speaker, preacher, and yes, hustler. But like his personal hero (early) Ice Cube (who appears on the polemic “Pressure”), Mike embodies all of these characters without being contradictory.
While I Pledge Allegiance is consistent, it’s the highlights that are transcendent. Backed by 808s and a gospel choir on “God Is In The Building”, Mike plays a vengeful god, threatening to raise hell to get to heaven. The album closer, “Goodbye (City of Dope)” is storytelling rap worthy of Biggie. “Pressure” is the sequel to the first IPA’s diatribe “That’s Life” as Mike and Ice Cube attack black politicians and preachers. Fact: “Pressure” has the best opening bars of any song released this decade:
Motherfuckers/I just bought some new chukkas
The old ones bloodied up from stomping out all suckas”
This is how Jeezy’s Recession should have sounded. This is grind time. Bang, bang, bang.–Aaron Matthews