Beanie Sigel’s clothing line, State Property, features hidden pockets and gun holsters, his lyrics often glorify all the worst elements of street culture (homophobia, misogyny, the “stop-snitchin’” code of ethics), and his last album, The B. Coming, was recorded on the eve of a 10-month prison term. But whatever Sigel lacks in morality or imagination, he more than makes up for it with surefire verbal mastery, and The Solution is another hard-boiled testament of ghetto truth-telling. Sigel’s verses flow with an unexpurgated, venomous power, a rage coiled and then sprung outward with the manic violence of a jackhammer. He has a gift for repackaging the usual boasts and taunts in new ways and visualizes brutality with a chillingly keen expertise: “No cause, no homo, no Vaseline/When I enter a nigga slow-mo with that broomstick.” The criminality here is richly complex, and though Sigel is a practicing Muslim, his ruminations on faith and sin recall more the latent Catholicism of a Sicilian don. Sigel’s listing of his “most heinous acts” has a mix of both pride and guilt, and damnation looms large in his mind: “I’m in fear of that fork in the road/The devil there waiting to claim my soul,” he says on “Prayer.”
Like Freeway’s Free at Last, Solution is another recent Roc-a-fella disc to suffer in the shadow of the supreme American Gangster. Unlike Freeway, though, Beanie doesn’t require a Just Blaze or Kanye beat to spit his thoughts successfully. Solution‘s unobtrusive yet menacing production—gothic keyboards, drum noises mimicking gunshots—nicely complement Sigel’s musings on death, crime, and the urban landscape. Even when having fun, Sigel is all business: Album opener “All the Above” is an eerie kind of party, contrasting R. Kelly’s guest vocals with staccato choral chants, while “Shake It for Me” brings us into the woozy phase of a drunk evening and is less a ploy to get a girl dancing than to get her into a home-bound automobile. More unusual samples in the album’s latter half—of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” and James Blunt’s “No Bravery”—hardly throw Sigel off his workmanlike rhythm.
By now Sigel has made clear his devotion to a hardcore style of gangsta rap, and even if President Carter were gracious enough to toss him a hot crossover beat, Sigel probably wouldn’t care. Take the meandering, trumpet-accompanied piece “H.H.E.H.,” arguably the album’s best track and one in which Sigel, after declaring himself a “dinosaur,” addresses the distant future: “When I’m long gone, they gonna dig up my bones and study my poems/And learn I was more than a gun and a song.” Whether Sigel’s poetry rises above its unsavory subject matter is a judgment he willingly leaves to posterity. As for his contemporary audience, we could do worse than give him the benefit of the doubt.