Beanie Sigel: The Truth Album Review


After that, Jay seemed to bring Beanie with him wherever he went. Almost immediately, you could hear hints of Beanie’s hard-bitten style surface in Jay’s raps: “Chill with the crew/Real with the crew/4 million sold, look, still with the crew,” he spat on “More Money, More Cash, More Hoes.” And Jay brought Beanie along for the Hard Knock Life Tour, where he came out and freestyled a capella to 18,000 people who might have mistaken him for Jay’s bodyguard. It was Beanie’s first tour.

For Beanie, the disorientation was total. “My life changed overnight, dog,” he said to a camera in 2000 with the dazed look of someone whose life was flashing before his eyes. In a way, it was: When he was in elementary school, he briefly formed a “rap group” called Crash Crew with a friend named Tariq Trotter. Now that his former classmate went by the name Black Thought, Beanie wound up scoring a scene-stealing verse on the best Roots album of all time, Things Fall Apart, all because Big Pun double-parked. All rappers bragged about coming from nothing, but perhaps no one had come so far, so quickly, and from so little as Beanie Sigel. His swift come-up instantly became a cornerstone of his legend: “Met Jay, dropped on an album in a week/Without Unsigned Hype or Battle of the Beats,” he boasted.

An experience like that would make anyone a believer, and Beanie Sigel was Roc-A-Fella’s first true convert. Quickly, he brought as many Philly rappers into the Roc-A-Fella stable as he could: He and Freeway had made a pact when they met at a battle one night to help the other, so Free came first, quickly followed by more: Oschino, Omillio Sparks, the Young Gunz duo of Young Chris and Neef Buck. Suddenly, Roc-A-Fella had its very own version of Major Figgas, called State Property, under its own roof. Jay may have been the mind behind the Roc, but Beanie rapidly established himself as its heart and soul. Whereas before it had been some combination of vanity label and tax shelter, in Beanie’s eyes it was Motown in the ’60s, Philadelphia International in the ’70s.

Appropriately, his albums would help define a house sound for the emergent label that drew heavily on plush soul samples, relics from previous eras of Black American excellence. Beanie started combing through beat CDs to build what would become his debut album, The Truth. From the beginning, he had a special ear for darkness, drama, and grit. The production credits for the first three tracks belong to Kanye WestJust Blaze, and Bink!, respectively—each producer’s first placement on a Roc-A-Fella album. If you had to pick the three pillars for the next half-decade of East Coast rap, it would be difficult to come up with a more definitive list.


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