On the surface, a collaboration between iconic rap legends Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, e-40 and Too Short should be an easy slam dunk for old school hip-hop fans. Some of the men that helped to define and popularise rap in the late 80’s and into the early 90’s coming together in the modern era to show these young Soundcloud upstarts with their trap beats and autotune how it’s done? Who wouldn’t love to see it?
It’s a romantic idea, but the reality here doesn’t quite live up to that heady expectation… although there are certainly points where they come damn close.
Opening track California sounds like it could have been released on Death Row Records in 1992, Snoop’s classic drawl working alongside a big G-Funk groove on the first verse transports you straight back to the streets of Compton. It’s all 40’s, lowriders and blunts, and, without doing anything new at all, it’s absolutely wonderful.
If the entire album could deliver such huge hooks, grooves and keep this party going then we’d be talking about one of 2022’s most enjoyably joyous releases. But within a couple of tracks we reach a point where it gets a little pedestrian, and the passing of time and the evolution of hip-hop starts to weigh too heavy on Mount Westmore.
Too Big has a wholly unremarkable beat, and the rhymes start to feel a little phoned in by modern standards, although it’s immediately followed by the slinky, club ready Activated, which sees both Cube and $hort roll back the years with their domineering flow. In fact, the one thing you can say stays consistent throughout the album is that each man, as you’d expect, always stamp their own personality over each song.
But that one-two punch, a weak slap to the cheek prior to a fist to the bridge of the nose, feels like the record in a microcosm.
Hip-hop is currently in as broad, inspiring, creative and dexterous form as it maybe has ever been, although that isn’t to say that it’s impossible for artists that have been around for generations to look back to the early sound of the genre, lean in on it, and still remain fresh and current sounding: Black Thought and Danger Mouse’s Cheat Codes album from this year or any of Nas’ recent material is proof of that. But if you’re going to continue to hark back to hyper-aggro old school aesthetic then you’re going to need to be at the very top of your game at all times to compete with contemporary rap’s finest.
To be fair, while there is too much filler here that can’t compete with the best (16 tracks feels excessive in the extreme), when they get it right it’s really glorious. I Got Pull is an amazingly catchy banger, with an 80’s electro funk hook and all four men sounding way too energetic for their advancing years, the greasy, New Jack feel of Do My Best is the finest slow jam you’ll hear this year and Tribal is so violently angry that it could have been plucked straight off of Cube’s classic Death Certificate album.
Of course, as mentioned, there’s some serious ying to the yang; Up Down, with its rather dated big bottom obsession, sounds like the sort of thing that came from an early 90’s G-Funk album that you skip out of embarrassment when you listen to it now, while Big Subwoofer’s rhymes seem positively antiquated when you compare them to some of 2022’s best MC’s.
Ultimately this is pretty much what you would, or should, expect from any legendary artist from any genre who are this deep into their career; a few flashes of the genius that made them so beloved alongside moments that are a little tired.
It seems unlikely, save for a few tracks, that a new generation who have discovered hip-hop through the sublimely self-analytical lens of a Kendrick Lamar, or even a JID or an Iron Mike Eagle, and want to know what the fuss is all about are going to consider this an essential listen. But, that’s probably not who this is aimed at, and if you are a fan of big, rollicking, aggressive, old school, bluster from some of the most recognisable voices from the genre, Mount Rushmore’s debut will have the power to transport you back to the original golden age of hip-hop enough times to make this a more than worthwhile collab.
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