By T.M. Wolf, Okayplayer.com
E-40: GO DUMB
As T-K.A.S.H. shows on his Guerilla Funk debut, Turf War Syndrome, the answer is about as complex and lyrically compelling as the question is simple. To the faint of heart -- put ya stunna shades on, you might not like what you're about to see.
While not all listeners will agree with the notion that the government funds the drug trade ("How to Get Ass," "Write What I See"), T-K.A.S.H. presents his case with a deep, smooth flow over appealing, vaguely G-funk-inflected tracks. Driving Turf War Syndrome is his attempt to link the Iraq War, the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina, and hyphy into a single phenomenon. For T-K.A.S.H., the wars fought by the government abroad ("In My Draws") don't differ much from current hood events. As the title of the album suggests, America's cities are suffering from their own Gulf War Syndrome senseless deaths from endless shoot-outs and turf battles, fought by young men "drafted" into the block's service ("Made In America"). And, like Louisiana, there's no hope for benevolent government intervention into the hood's "psychological Hurricane Katrina." Finally, as far as "going dumb"? That's just a symptom of the syndrome, the same war-inspired chaos affecting American troops and the inhabitants of Iraq.
It's on this final point, however, that T-K.A.S.H. hits a snag. On one hand, he seems to applaud hyphy's disruptive qualities: "G-W-B is a W-M-D just like the crack that his government sent me / So, feel free to go stupid in the streets in O-A-K L-A-N-D / Little Middle East Babylon by the Bay." On the other, he presents hyphy as a part of a greater urban pathology, an offshoot of cultures and conditions that turn young men into killers ("Turf War Syndrome"). Even in this slightly contradictory presentation of Bay lifestyles, T-K.A.S.H. captures a basic truth: the "reality" of any situation is rarely cut and dry. Those looking for answers are going to have to look at all the factors, and the resulting "solutions" will be provisional at best.
The shortcomings of Turf War Syndrome don't have as much to do with T-K.A.S.H.'s ideology, as with the presentation on the second half of the album. Turf War Syndrome loses momentum over its stretch run, with only the eerie "Stay Away" to offset two uninspired concept tracks ("Superman" and "Liberty Mutual") and two generic autobiographical songs ("Hustlematic" and "Shine").
So what if Turf War Syndrome is a bit conflicted and inconsistent? Only the better to reflect what's going on around us and not just in Oakland, but in America as a whole. Too many ghost riders, not enough drivers. The whip's getting away.