The duo has always held a special place of lore as it pertains to hip-hop. From rap’s beginnings we’ve seen how the two-man tandem can bring a flavor to the genre that can garner them much attention as they grow. From the EPMD’s to the Rae Sremmurd’s there are plenty of examples where a balance of chemistry between two MC’s can produce musical perfection.
Aiming to be the next duo to make their imprint in hip-hop is 396 Hooligans. This tandem of Shane-Ø & J-Rad hangs their hate on songs filled with lyricism and production from the latter of the duo, J-Rad. Their new LP “American Hooligan” is a prime display of what the pair can accomplish. It also represents a moment of leveling up for the group as told by Shane-Ø:
“With our last 2 projects I think we were really just trying to put content out there to catch a little buzz, play with flows/melodies and to burn “396” into as many eyes and ears as possible. With “American Hooligan” we wanted to take our time and really mold a sound. Which J-Rad was able to do sonically to perfection (in my opinion). Lyrically we always want to not only have fun but give people a bit of a of an insiders view of our life all the while, forever striving to push our abilities as not only rappers, but as artist. There is content in these songs that mean a lot to us, whether it be the mentioning of friends/family or the experiences of our lifetime spent in the 396. Ultimately we wanted to give the world a window into our lives and keep the kids raging all at once. This album is our biggest release this far and we’re really looking forward to seeing where, how and to who we can reach in 2019.”
The release starts off with the “Hooligan” intro which is a song rooted strictly in bars. It’s really just a lyrical exercise for the team as they both drop some witty lyrics with verses that don’t get routed off by a hook. It is a good glimpse of what is to come as we lead into “Hold Up, What Up”. This is one I could see being a good performance track in concert with its call and response hook style. If there is one word to describe the sound here it is “energy”. Definitely one to turn up to.
“Sideways” follows and begins with a slow build up on production to give you a break from the upbeat sounds on the album thus far. The track deals with a familiar topic, haters, and how the Hooligans plan to keep doing their thing in the midst of it all. They both play with their flows a bit on the record which I think is great in helping to break up the monotony a bit.
As we make it to “Codeine” I must be honest and say we get to the first missed opportunity for me personally. While the lyrical content is surprisingly poignant for a song about the popular concoction it just doesn’t come together in full in my opinion. The verses from both MC’s are honestly some of the stronger efforts on the album but the hook doesn’t do anything to bolster the record. Some will thoroughly enjoy the track as it does still offer a good vibe, just isn’t for me.
“Showed ‘Em” is up next and is one of my standouts on the single. This track owns the distinction as the only one with a feature on “American Hooligan” as 396 calls on BopBop for an infectious hook. J-Rad shines with one of his strongest beats on the 10-track effort. I found myself running this one back on my initial listen.
We approach the second half of the album with “I Ain’t Worried”. Here we find 396 Hooligans sideswiping all the bullshit in their life, stating they simply are not worried about it all. The only focus is the paper and grinding to get it. In fashion akin to “Hold Up, What Up”, the track carries a high, energetic feeling which makes a good fit for performances and club play. It leads flawlessly into “Runnin'” which is another song rooted in the money chase and how their focus is to get to it.
One of the more unique tracks on this project is “W.B.H.”, short for “White Boyz in the Hood”. A lot of times with white rappers I think we see them trying to act as if their color is not something that matters and that is correct, it truly doesn’t as hip-hop has generally accepted others who really embrace the culture. This doesn’t mean that you cannot still represent for your own ethnicity and the things unique to it though. 396 Hooligans do that unapologetically here in a way that isn’t offensive but instead will probably catch you dancing.
“F.W.M.” is next in line and this single is notable for the flows to me. The beat is bit of a slow burner compared to some of the others on “American Hooligan”. This works well as it produces some flows that mesh effortlessly in both the hook and verses.
The album closes with “Can’t Feel Me” which is the most introspective of the records on the project. While not necessarily a track sad in mood or topic, they both do take the time to address some of the things they have had to overcome to accomplish what they have to date. It’s a perfect closer for the project in my opinion and wraps up the set in the right manner.
Overall I would consider “American Hooligan” to be a solid effort from 396 Hooligans that should do the intended goal of helping them spread their name in a larger fashion. I enjoyed the listen, but I must admit there is some room for improvement. J-Rad is a highly capable producer for the group but I would also like to see them collaborate with other producers along with his talent to provide more diversity in the sound. Furthermore I feel the project’s light-hearted sound which is heavily ready for the party scene could have been boosted by a skit/interlude or two. That being said, I would still recommend checking out “American Hooligan” for anyone in search of a new duo that creates feel-good music.
Follow 396 Hooligans at @396tagram