On "10 Summers", DJ Mustard finds himself going down the same road, with very few detours. At least those short detours are interesting.
Dijon McFarlane, aka DJ Mustard, is a Los Angeles born and raised producer of seemingly all of the most important tracks you’ve heard over the past year. While that statement is obvious hyperbole, his influence on the rap stratosphere is not, and cannot be overstated. When you have producers jack what you’ve made hot, for another artist (cough, Iggy Azalea), with no shame, it means you’ve made serious waves. With hits from 2 Chainz’ “I’m Different,” Tyga’s “Rack City,” to label partner YG’s “My Nigga,” Mustard has had his lane locked down.
Examining Mustard’s sound does require a look back in the not-so-distant past. There are signs of signatures taken from previous California artists and producers. Mustard haters will point out that his production is completely imitative, and painfully basic. “It sounds like that Bay Area, Mistah F.A.B. stuff.” Lovers of Mustard will take up arms for his cause via the undeniable turn up factor enclosed in the ‘old to new’ West Coast motif driven tracks. There is clearly a correlation of success, living in the delicate balance of consistent production and a straw-like tunnel vision for consistent hits. With 10 Summers, Mustard has taken a definitive stand: he is about his money.
Staying faithful to his roots, the album starts with low-rider anthem, “Low Low,” featuring Crenshaw native Nipsey Hussle. The tone is immediately set, and continues with “Ghetto Tales,” a nod to the referenced Bay Area sound most detractors will point directly to. The middling “Throw Your Hood Up” makes a questionable attempt to unify the nation behind yet another Bay Area influenced beat. Dom Kennedy still manages quality, showing of his laid back flow. “Giuseppe” is the requisite ball out track, with 2 Chainz, Yo Gotti, and Jeezy delivering customary hood-rich verses.
“Face Down” is an undeniable, more Southern-influenced track, which highlights what Mustard does best: creating strong, amped up platforms for rappers who specifically like talking about dealings with the ‘fairer sex’ and financial matters. Lil Boosie is perfect for the hook, and Weezy comes in with a strong verse. However, Big Sean comes with the more memorable verses on the song, and album. “The honeymoon suite? Hell yeah, it's our one night anniversary…”
“Down On Me”, while an understandable single selection with 2 Chainz and Ty Dolla $ign, is uninspired and dull. IAMSU! goes in on “Can’t Tell Me Shit,” with a sped up flow, almost manages to overtake the suspect production. At this point, the album feels like one beat, looped continuously, with subtle changes and features. Then, something happens. Though entirely too late, the album gets interesting.
Mustard makes a number of mistakes on the album, one of them being not including full versions of the two very strong interludes. Mustard does some of his best work on the R&B tracks, like “Tinashe Checks In”, which should have been a single. (Curiously, in the course of the creation of this review, an extended mix was released for general consumption. Tinashe sounds like a future star.) Arguably 10 Summers’ best track, “4 Digits” takes the album to better place, with a first-rate Fabolous and Eric Bellinger collaboration, and a concept we haven't really heard on wax before. The song has a texture and atmosphere missing from the majority of the album. Bellinger echoes the sentiment at the beginning of the track: “It's gon' be your favorite song.” Curiously, on “Ty Dolla $ign Checks In,” Mustard cuts off what sounds like a potentially great track before it even starts. Perhaps, it will be a track on Ty’s next project. “Deep” ends the album on probably the most tedious, turned down moments possible. Following the previous seven minutes of excellent work, it feels like you’ve went from being a kid promised a trip to the mall, only to be trapped in Home Depot, watching your mom look at faucets.
When placed in the right context, like riding out on a Saturday night, you’re going to be able to use most of 10 Summers as background music. “Face Down” is already being played where it should be, the gentlemen’s clubs and all other ratchet establishments. Men (and some select women) will be breaking large bills into ones and fives, and asses of all races will wobble, wobble. Unfortunately, on the whole, the album is largely a one-note tune, more of the same with the majority album poking holes in the same, worn out vein. Tracklisting is also an issue, with the placement of the excellent interludes. At minimum, they could have been used to break up the monotony of the front end. At maximum, they would have been the best full tracks on the album.
Mustard does have talent and a good ear for hit records, that is undeniable. He has made it clear that he’s chasing those hits, which is an honest and completely worthwhile venture. However, if you are staring down that barrel, musical diversity (and quality, to some extent) is usually the sacrifice. There isn’t a lot of direction for change, with an already principally borrowed sound. It will be interesting where he goes, over the next year. Given the quicker, less forgiving cycle of success, Mustard will need to create some variety in his sound, in order to not only remain successful, but to maintain relevancy.