Ricky Jones once told us that there’s a fiend in every family. This partially explains why the New Orleans-raised rapper’s services have stayed in constant demand for a decade and a half. First coming to fame as a No Limit mercenary, Fiend soon fled north to become a Ruff Ryder, before re-emerging as a consigliere for former labelmate Curren$y. Calling him a weed carrier does him no justice — Fiend is far more than that and always has been. Besides, I suspect everyone in the J.E.T.’s carries their own California kush.
But Fiend’s latest mixtape, Tennis Shoes & Tuxedos, may be his finest strain yet. Admittedly, There’s a Fiend in Every Family is a minor classic of sorts, but like most No Limit releases, both its charms and flaws stem from its assembly-line origin (the producers weren’t called Beats by the Ounce). Once upon a tank, the young International Jones (why, Fiend, why) seemed trapped within the confines of the No Limit aesthetic, his flow completely beholden to Mystikal’s Big Payback rasp (mixed with a little bit of DMX’s rabies-infected rants) and his subject matter extended little beyond what you’d hear on a 2pac B-Side. His first No Limit record went Gold and his second peaked at #1 on the rap charts, but neither offered a hint of longevity, and it seemed certain that the burly rhymer would wind up playing the car show circuit with Mia X.
Miraculously, Curren$y’s weed intake didn’t wreck his long-term memory and has spent the last 12 months offering his long-time friend a series of increasingly high-profile guest spots, culminating with his smoke-stealing turn on “O.G. (The Jam.”) , Granted, his new tape finds Fiend heavily steeped in the J.E.T.’s aesthetic: beats smooth as fuzzy dice and plush crushed velvet raps. But steering within this narrow lane, Fiend has tricked out his own James Bond Benz, playing the role of the lecherous uncle with the Isaac Hayes baritone, expensive drugs, and expansive tastes (turkey bacon…side of raisin toast).
Like a raunchier Rick Ross, he plays the overweight lover role well, jacking loops of old Marvin Gaye and Menahan Street Band songs and letting them unfurl while he brags about smoking Blue Dream and getting “high like giraffe pussy.” Like Curren$y, DZA, and the rest of the crew, Fiend probably has the Goldeneye emblem tatted on his body. It’s symphonic music for the high-end smoker, the sort of thing that lovers of “Indo Smoke” would’ve expected to graduate to. It’s butter-smooth but never soft — the ideal blunt cruise soundtrack. Before Beyonce and Richard Hatch, Fiend claimed he was a survivor. Time’s proven him right.