Travis Barker - Give the Drummer Some (Album Review)
After listening to Give the Drummer Some, I think that, for the most part, it is a very solid collaborative effort from Travis Barker, album producer and drummer of Blink-182. Barker’s method of incorporating different styles of music showcases a musician who is more than capable of offering up tracks for a wide spectrum of musical tastes.
Singles often make someone pick up an album, but I have discovered (more often than not) that it is unfair to form
a complete opinion of an artist based on a single. When it comes to forming my
opinion of an album or artist, I have developed a custom of listening to the
entire album from beginning to end (in one sitting) and without skipping anything in order to get a grasp of the work as a
Although I like to occasionally share my opinions regarding music, being a critic is not my profession. I am approaching this review simply as a casual, unbiased listener of Barker's work and as an overall lover of music.
Structure and Style
In most instances with so-called “solo” albums (how you define that these days is up for serious debate), I usually prefer
albums that have a certain degree of fluidity [e.g., in tone (mood), theme, and
production] which creates a dominant mood for the entire work. Give the
Drummer Some is not a traditional "solo" album and is not stylized to that degree, and quite frankly, it doesn’t need to be. It still
delivered and held my attention from beginning to end, even absent a sense of "uniformity" by my own standards.
This is primarily an album which showcases Barker’s production talents. There is no distinct style or feel to his production that establishes a signature “Travis Barker sound.” From listening to the album, I didn’t get the impression that developing something along those lines was his intention anyway.
The bulk of the album has a strong hip-hop presence which, initially, may turn some people away. I think that this classification owes more to the guest artists themselves rather than the music supporting them, however. The music itself is an eclectic mix of hip-hop, rock, and also electronic and latin in places. Despite switching between and combining genres, the album is very controlled and does not go overboard with experimentation to the point where it becomes structurally sloppy.
The album is loaded with featured performers. Barker is joined by the members of Slaughterhouse (Joe Budden, Crooked I, Royce Da 5'9", and Joell Ortiz), RZA, Raekwon, Lil Wayne, Lupe Fiasco, Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, Clipse, Swizz Beatz, Lil Jon (yes, even Lil Jon), and several others along with Tom Morello, Corey Taylor of Slipknot, Kobe, Dev, Steve Aoki, Cypress Hill, and Slash. With this many different featured guests, it would be easy for any album to fall into one huge, disorganized mess. Thankfully, Give the Drummer Some manages to pull it all together in a way that not only makes sense, but brings out the best of each guest on their respective track. Unlike a lot of music which serves to mask deficiencies in an artist’s abilities, the tracks on this album seem to complement the strengths of each performer and challenge some of them to step their game up a notch with something slightly different than what they may be used to.
Barker mercifully avoids using the “rep-my-city/label” formula and takes more of a Santana-like approach to collaboration by not overusing any particular guest artist. In fact, with the exception of Kobe (appearing twice in the deluxe), each guest appears only once. Barker doesn’t repeatedly use the same artists to the point where the album feels like it has enough material to make a mini [insert artist name here] mixtape. The guest spots, whether solo or in conjunction with others, make sense (e.g., fast rappers team with fast rappers, RZA raps with Raekwon [Wu-Tang], Lil Jon is "Hey!-ing" his crunk lil' heart out over a repetitious, single phrase hook and nothing else, etc.), and no single presence is so dominant as to be a distraction. Never once did I have the opportunity to say, “Aw, man, he’s in this one, too?” Some of you reading this know the tendency, and the absence of complaint is refreshing.
With that said, I never really felt like this was a “Travis Barker” solo album, so to speak. The title, Give the Drummer Some, is misleading because, except for a few times here and there as intros or towards the end of some tracks, Barker somehow neglects to give himself some (or rather, more). I would have liked to have heard at least one track (or extended portions of available tracks) where he would have just had a jam session that established his presence more as the Drummer. I feel that Barker never achieves that true ownership of the project, beyond the occasional shout-out during a guest artist’s verse, that his ability as a musician would have allowed him to claim.
At the end of the day, though, I think that Barker’s usual role as a drummer defines his approach to collaboration and production on this project. By usually providing the pulse of an arrangement, the drummer is vital to the overall sound of the music. The very nature of the position, however, requires him to primarily work in the background with occasional, spotlight demonstrations of skill.
The producer also serves a background function most of the time (with many modern exceptions). A producer’s presence is always felt in some respect just by the existence of the musical accompaniment. Without a signature sound already linked to him, however, I feel that a lot of the work that went into this album won’t be given the kind of endearing credit that sticks to Barker’s name (yet) without inquiry and beyond those who are already fans and familiar with his past work. As I said in the beginning, that type of a broader presence might not have been his ultimate ambition with this project.
The even quality of the album is a pro and a con, too, I
think. Even though I wouldn't hesitate to listen to the album again as a whole, no particular
track just made me want to listen to it in isolation over and over. Maybe that's ultimately a testament to how good the album is. I honestly
don’t know. It’s quite possible that I may change my mind
about favorite tracks on a second listen (like an OutKast record), but this review just covers my
initial impression. Though it somehow lacks that elusive “thing” that would make it a classic, as I see it now, Give the Drummer Some is truly a great album definitely worth checking out.
Note - There is a really long pause after the main song on the final track "Misfits" (deluxe edition). But if you wait until around the eighth minute (or fast-forward/slide to it), there is an extra surprise towards the end.
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