Album Review: Stat Quo – Statlanta

[Dream Big Ventures; 2010]

Anyone in the house with Stat Quo? Ask a room full of people, and I’d expect very few hands to go up. Time was, however, when Stat could have come into the game playing a major role. He’s essentially part of Drake’s class, dropping his debut in a year along with B.o.B. et al. Yet you won’t be seeing Statlanta atop any charts. With guests such as Devin the Dude and Talib Kweli, Stat would seem firmly entrenched in the ranks of backpack rappers. Yet, this wasn’t exactly a choice for the Southern MC. Go back a few years, and you’ll find him present on Eminem’s Encore and that same rapper’s label’s collective effort, The Re-Up, which moved over 300,000 records in its first week, if only due to the “Eminem Presents…” on the cover. You’d think this exposure would’ve been enough to catapult Stat forward.

Yet, from Shady/Aftermath, Stat is part of a graduating class of the label’s could-have-beens, established as the next posse after 50, Game, and Obie (whose own career sadly fizzled) came through, only to…well, have pretty much nothing happen. Reasons? Their bosses’ rampant drug problem might have had something to do with it. Dre’s perfection obsession also tends to hurt – it’s fine to take ten years on a record if you have a handy rap godfather reputation, but if you’re pushin a new artist, well, then you just need to cut some tracks and get them the hell out there. This didn’t happen, and so after a few years – eons in the game – of Statlanta sitting cold, Stat packed his bags and headed back to the A. So when he raps, “First album but it feels like the third,” you’ll understand.

Thing is, Stat may justly feel like he’s been doing it for longer than he’ll get credit for, but the years of relative silence have left him untested. He was supposed to be a big deal, at least Dre, Slim, and Scarface (an earlier encourager to his career) thought so, but how good was he, really?

Pretty damn, it turns out. With one record Stat’s pushed himself towards to the top of unrecognized Southern rap. One has to wonder, will the once-was future boy propel himself back to the forefront with the music he made without the big label? Just how involved Dre remained in the process is unclear. First song, first line, Stat spits, “This is Statlanta with no Em and no Dre/ Just nuthin but that A,” yet a few months ago Stat supposedly wrapped the record with pro bono help from the Dr., there were pictures and everything, with Stat even appearing in a freakin’ HP commercial with Dre. He also raps, “Aftermath politics, I guess I been Shaded.” So as to whether Stat does have beef, doesn’t have beef, and yadda yadda, it ultimately doesn’t matter – it doesn’t harm the music.

From the officially credited producers on the released project, it seems none of the would-have-been Shady album is present here. Out of those tracks, two seemed to have surfaced (surely to create buzz) recently, “Classic Shit” and “Atlanta on Fire,” both featuring Eminem. While it’s interesting to hear what might have been (Slim declares, “It’s Shady Aftermathlanta.”), Stat sounds bored on the tracks, with a clearly pill-popping Encore-era Eminem even spitting all over him (it’s also a bit darkly ironic to hear Em quip, “So few cats blow”).

So as it turns out, Stat’s messy split from a giant may have helped his product, at least in regards to its contents, if not the units it’ll shift. Stat signed to a label afire, and was probably pampered from the start, led to believe he was the future. Label-less, he found himself in a position to have to actually prove it.

The adversity seems to have matured his game as he drops in with an all the more polished flow on a brisk 12 tracks. I’m normally predisposed to criticize short rap records – if so and so’s rap album is twice the length of yours’, they’re setting their setting their bar for a classic much higher – but this is one of those so consistent that one can hardly complain about the MC keeping it trimmed down. Stat still has his eye on the game, spitting, “I’m still the future, XXL is mistaken.” Stat is a big ego in a small pool on Dream Big Ventures (Sha Money XL’s label), making grand gestures towards fame he thought he’d already claimed. Hence, the album is a successful mismatch of ideals – Stat doin’ “real rap” as he doesn’t have a massive audience to begin with, featuring the aforementioned “respectable” MC’s, and then on the other side of things, boasting in-demands Boi-1da production on “Catch Me” (which explores Stat’s fears after losing his spot on Aftermath).

Universally, Statlanta boasts strong production, and one can fairly draw parallels between it and co-Atlanta resident Big Boi’s new effort. Truth is, Stat won’t be winning any Southern flow offs with Antwon or T.I. anytime soon, but the sheer drive and force of will behind this record make it a surprisingly grand delayed entry into the game for the rapper. On the very first track, Stat excitedly tells his listeners to look for where he goes next – here’s to watching.