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The Natural

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Album Review

Eminem jokingly predicted in his 2002 summer smash "Without Me" that "20 million other white rappers" would emerge in the wake of his multi-platinum success. Though that was a bit of an exaggeration, Haystak is one of a growing number of white MCs signed in the years since Slim Shady's breakthrough. Which isn't to say that this Nashville-based rapper and his Crazy White Boys clique are newcomers to the hip-hop scene — on the contrary, the artist formerly known as Jason Winfree has been kicking around the underground scene for more than half a decade, releasing two albums locally before getting signed to Koch. Ultimately, the problems that prevent The Natural from being one of the year's most promising hip-hop albums stem less from this plus-sized MC's racial novelty than from a fairly universal failure plaguing the genre: With 18 tracks clocking in at over an hour, there are three or four tracks here that slow the album's momentum halfway through. "White Boy" gets things off to a riveting start, with lyrics that proudly proclaim Haystak's status as a card-carrying member of the white-trash nation, reclaiming slanderous terms like "cracker" as a term of endearment the same way black rappers redefined the n-word. The club-worthy anthem "In Here" bounces along on an infectiously funky Dirty South groove, while "Different Kind of Lady" pays tender tribute to the women in the artist's life while recounting scenes from his hardscrabble background. Sadly, the lamentable "Pit Bull Skit" comes along ten tracks in, followed by two weak tracks — "Killa Man Crew" and "F****d Up" — that dull the promise of the preceding eight songs. "Oh My God," featuring a guest appearance from extended CWB family member Bubba Sparxxx, closes the album with an in-your-face bang, showcasing a crew packed with a diverse range of microphone talents and perfectly matched by Sonny Paradise and Kevin "DJ Dev" Grisham's sizzling production. But while Haystak's soulful flow, which falls somewhere between Big Pun and Wolfman Jack, is a nice change of pace from the materialistic pretense of the bling-bling contingent, you'll find yourself wishing there was a little less of him to love on The Natural.


Born: 22 March 1973 in Lebanon, TN

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

When he broke into the Southern rap scene in the late '90s, Tennessee rapper Haystak combined his big persona with self-reflective sincerity. Unlike many of his Southern peers, Haystak didn't embrace materialism and greed; he rapped about his life as so-called "white trash," exploring the social dimensions of being white and underprivileged in the South. Following the success of contemporaries Eminem and Bubba Sparxxx, Haystak found it easier to earn respect in an industry that had long frowned upon...
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