It was last May when I first discovered Clint Dempsey's musical talents in the form of his Nike-sponsored "Don't Tread." The hip hop anthem, which also featured late Houston rapper Big Hawk became the official anthem of the US Men's National Team in their (failed) quest for the World Cup last summer. While he isn't the lyrical gymnast that NaS, Jay-Z or The Game is, many felt that Deuce’s emcee skills (his rap handle) warranted a follow up to give listeners a better feel for his lyrical prowess. Upon a recent visit to his website, I discovered two new tracks - "Wind and Grind" & "Without Me" - which have been hyperlinked for one to bob their head to.
The lyrical content of "Wind and Grind" is quite the departure from his rap debut. Instead of soccer, respect, and practice that “Don’t Tread” extols, "Wind" is a mix of the more prevalent playboy/straight-mackin' themes present in hip hop. The bass-influenced beat is the first indication that this is clearly no reprisal of “Don’t Tread”, but rather a darker, more sinister offering. This isn't to say that Deuce can't pull it off - it's just when one drops the squeaky clean "Don't Tread" as his debut, any track thereafter containing a few naughty words has a tendency to catch one off guard. And make no mistake: the "Grind" he references in the title has nothing to do with work. The collaboration with XO helps Deuce’s cause tremendously on this track, as XO’s flow seems to compliment Deuce’s laid back Southern drawl. His delivery is much like his demeanor on the pitch: freewheeling and loose. Beat: B+. Delivery: B.
In the "Without Me" cut, Deuce once again mashes with XO, but this time around, the Nacogdoches kid seems a little at sea. He spits rather over a familiar Jim Jones "We Fly High" beat, the delivery sounds canned, almost as if our favorite son is reading the lyrics straight from his notebook. On this track, despite, he seems uncomfortable, as if he was simply showing up to the studio for a hastily compiled mix tape. After listening to “Wind”, this track falls flatter on its face than Cristiano Ronaldo in the box. The awkward first lines (I’m uptown in my downtown/Hit the fool of these clowns/Swim, here ya go drown) only hasten the deterioration of this track. XO does his best to plug the holes, and just barely pulls it off with his much cooler-crafted lyrics. You really have to listen to this track one more than once to come to the following conclusion: he can do better than this. Beat: A (because it’s a Jim Jones production). Delivery: C-.
All in all, these two new tracks will whet the appetite of any Deuce fan whose parents allow them to purchase CDs with parental warnings. But don't get it twisted, Deuce ain't the hardcore f-bomb dropper that The Game is, nor are his rhymes nearly as gritty. He doesn't fake the funk by rapping about guns, gangstas or grams. His lyrical content is more mack daddy than Mack 10, and is appreciably uncontrived or hokey. His laid-back delivery is reflective of the Houston "screwed" (beats slowed down to match the southern drawl) scene, where Paul Wall, EKG and Trae have all plied their craft. Although still an upstart, there are moments in his brief emceeing career where he does shine. Although he'll never push a million records, the full-time footballer/part-time rapper can certainly stand to gain added credibility with each offering.