Album: Rydaz Redemption
Review by: Chris Barth
Alabama native Holland Dai’mon Witherspoon went through the ringer a few times. The rapper, who records under the name Mr. Envi’, began recording on his own in 2003 but suffered a few false starts. Now older and wiser, Mr. Envi’ is back at it – this time with momentum on his side. Rydaz Redemption the EP is one of eight projects released in the past three years. With five smooth tracks clocking in at under 20 minutes, it’s a solid introduction from a true rap grinder.
Rydaz Redemption the EP, released on the Southern Stisles label (of which Witherspoon is the CEO), kicks off with “I’mma Boss,” a deep bass and synth-heavy track that announces the persona of Mr. Envi’: He’s a boss. The track is a standard hype track in many ways – a confident signifier song to serve as both a statement and a challenge to listeners and competitors. Rather than seeming confrontational, though, Mr. Envi’ seems comfortable and relaxed. Obvious Rick Ross references abound, and Envi’ evokes that Florida rapper both in delivery and in vocabulary. The topic isn’t exactly profound or earth shattering, but it’s a well-delivered status track that sets the mood for the Rydaz Redemption the EP off the bat.
“Spotlight,” the EP’s second track, has a beat that resembles a chopped and reorganized version of Warren G’s “Regulators.” Though the beat seems strangely familiar, however, the track doesn’t seem derivative. It pulses forward, telling the story of a woman dealing with the pitfalls of celebrity. It’s an interesting contrast of light beat and heavy subject material, but Mr. Envi’ balances those factors well and spins them into an enjoyable track. Some of the rhymes on “Spotlight” seem forced, but in general, it’s a solid tune to follow “I’mma Boss,” giving a different perspective from that initial track.
The EP’s third track again taps into the Miami hip hop feel, with synthesized strings creating the background for a track that exalts the grind and the bills that come with it. It’s closer to the EP’s opening track – a boasting blast that invites all comers. “I make music for hustlers/I make music for thugs/I make music for the older crowd that likes to cut a rug,” raps Envi’, and he’s dead on – these songs have broad appeal.
On the fourth and fifth tracks of Rydaz Redemption the EP, Mr. Envi’ recruits some help in the form of guest spots from Truehillz, S.G., and Bigg Redd. The EP’s first real misstep comes in the form of heavy-handed application of autotune on the intro of “I Just Wanna.” Rather than making minor tweaks via vocoder, the track employs a clunkier retuning, eliminating the smoothness that this track calls for and leaving it only a shade of what it could potentially be. The verses from Mr. Envi’ are solid and the song has the potential to be a late night slow burner, but it’s not easy to get through the first forty-five seconds. “Do It Big” closes the album on a weaker note as well, featuring a fast beat and a couple guest verses that sound a bit hectic.
Rydaz Redemption the EP is a solid collection that starts out on a strong foot and unfortunately falters as it runs its course. That said, it is an enjoyable listen, and well worth the time it takes to spin its five brief tracks. Mr. Envi’ is at his best when he raps on his own; his voice and vocals are good enough to carry tracks on their own without guest spots. The EP seems to be meant as a teaser for an upcoming album, in which case it absolutely does its purpose. There are questions left unanswered and gaps to be addressed, but Rydas Redemption the EP will whet the appetite of hip hop fans and leave them hoping for more.