If you are reading your first Track by Track, here on iStandardProducers.com, then there are a few things you must know:
#1 The writers here at iStandardProducers.com focus mostly on the beats … obviously – hence the name “PRODUCERS” in iStandardProducers.com… however we are still reviewing the record as a whole.
#2 EVERY track gets equal shine…
#3 You know how we do it…we don’t check the credits until the album is heard in its entirety.
“Freezing Dice” (Produced by Apollo Brown) – The intro to Dice Game is short and sweet but features a dice game in progress, which is appropriate based on the album’s title.
“Reputation” (Produced by Apollo Brown) – Jay-Z fans will probably recognize the main sample used for this track. I really like the pounding kick drum on here and the inclusion of soulful vocals throughout the beat greatly separates this song from Jay-Z’s song (I won’t spoil which one). The drums fit well on here and otherwise I don’t have too much to say other than that this is a hard beat and Guilty Simpson matches with tough lyrics of Detroit city life.
“Let’s Play” (Produced by Apollo Brown) – The snare on “Let’s Play” bangs and has that dirty and gritty sound to it that I love. The sample on this song is the same one from a classic Wu-Tang track and is also flipped differently (more so than on “Reputation”) which I appreciate. The way the sample is flipped on here is done well and gives the whole song a chilled and soulful vibe.
“One Man” (Produced by Apollo Brown) – “One Man” is a straight up boom-bap track with those classic drums that make your head nod. The brass and piano hits throughout the verses and chorus give this track a gutter vibe and the vocal sample brought in on the hook instills the song’s concept very firmly. All around this is a solid record and my favorite so far, especially in terms of the production.
“I Can Do No Wrong” (Produced by Apollo Brown) – From the start of this record I could hear and feel the soul oozing out of my studio monitors. Brass phrases and dark choir harmonies give “I Can Do No Wrong” a classic sound to it before Guilty Simpson even gets to bombard the track with his rhymes. Extra choir sounds brought in on the chorus are a great touch to switch the instrumental up. I also appreciate Guilty Simpson’s more personal rhymes on this track as well so scratch what I said about “One Man”; this is definitely my favorite track on this album thus far.
“Potatoes” featuring Torae (Produced by Apollo Brown) – The aggressive and soulful feel to “Potatoes” makes me think of “One Man” meets “I Can Do No Wrong”. Warlike verses and gentle, moving choruses make up the instrumental to “Potatoes” an even balance of yin and yang. I’m a huge fan of beats that completely switch up from the verse to the chorus but yet manage to transition fluidly and this track definitely accomplishes that mission.
“Change” (Produced by Apollo Brown) – Even without any lyrics the instrumental to “Change” itself has a very pensive feel. Guilty Simpson delivers on his end with story-based and deep-rooted rhymes to real life struggles that people face on a day-to-day basis. The production doesn’t have any extravagant transitions on this record but the beat works very well for the song and manages to evoke emotions that the listener should feel just in case the lyrics don’t manage to grab them (which I’m sure they will). I can’t say I have anything bad to reveal about this song, it’s very well done from the instrumental to the lyrics.
“Dear Jane” (Produced by Apollo Brown) – “Dear Jane” offers a common hip-hop subject matter but in an original format that most listeners will pick up on quickly. The production of this track definitely stands out from the rest of the album so far in terms of not being so distinctly sample-based and soulful but still manages to keep that hip-hop edge to it. The high-pitched synth chords on here do get somewhat annoying but overall the song as a whole is dope, especially the unique message that is delivered in the end. In all honesty I think the other beats I’ve heard so far on this album greatly overshadow this one.
“Lose You” (Produced by Apollo Brown) – The soul just got turned back up… “Lose You” features blaring vocal samples on top of open hi-hats, knocking drums and a low-toned humming bass line. Drum-free choruses on this song offer some nice variety and change-ups as well as giving the vocal sample a chance to fully play out.
“Ink Blotches” (Produced by Apollo Brown) – Confident and determined string stabs are all over this song’s instrumental. Aside from the string hits, I really love the snare rolls and hi-hat patterns as well as the additional violin melodies on the hook. This is another standout instrumental to me because of how different it is from most of the soulful tracks on this album and it definitely works well to add some balance.
“Neverending Story” (Produced by Apollo Brown) – Passionate and high-pitched strings cover “Neverevending Story” which provides a great backdrop for Simpson to drop his meaningful words. The string rolls that bring variety throughout the verses are really dope as are the vocal samples on the chorus. I also think this beat is a nice change of pace due to the use of tambourines as percussion instead of the usual suspect of hi-hats.
“The Cook Up” (Produced by Apollo Brown) – This record just opens up very heavily. The sample chops of vocals and brass notes go back and forth with drums to make your head nod. Personally I really enjoyed the way the sample hits change for the chorus as well as the hook itself as a whole. Although there’s no dramatic changes on this track, the sample is very well cut to the point that you just want to hear this beat on repeat the way it is. The guitar wah’s brought in for the last seconds of the outro are a nice little addition.
“Truth Be Told” (Produced by Apollo Brown) – I recognized the sample on here from the intro and Slaughterhouse fans will definitely recognize it as well. Moving on, this soulful soundtrack finds Simpson delivering his truth and admitting his faults and struggles over militant sounding kick drums and snare rolls. This is solid production to me and the way the beat changes from verse to hook is really dope. Although the chorus lyrics are simple, they work very well with the production and the sample as well as the concept of the song.
“Nasty” featuring Planet Asia (Produced by Apollo Brown) – The production on “Nasty” is straight up nasty. From the vocal sample hits to the synth hits, you can tell this beat was not made to play with. There are no complaints on my end about the production; this is just all around original sounding material. I really like how the beat goes from the hard-hitting and brutal verses to the soft and sleek breaks between the rhymes that both Simpson and Planet Asia manage to murder.
“Wrong Hand” (Produced by Apollo Brown) – Jazzy records like this always remind me of New York City at night time, especially the brass on here and sure enough the first few bars are, “Night life, bright lights, the city is alive.” I like the vocal samples on the chorus of this track and although the brass and harmonica (I think) melodies on this beat don’t change up too much, they’re the kinds of arrangements you can listen to on repeat with no complaints. As expected, Guilty Simpson does his job as an MC very well.
“How Will I Go” (Produced by Apollo Brown) – “How Will I Go” includes a detuned organ, classic Biggie lyrics on the chorus and an eerie sounding electric guitar or synth over tough drums (especially the snare). The tom and snare fills that hit harshly and offer breaks throughout the beat are real exceptional in terms of providing variety in the track. I think the only thing I don’t like about this beat is the detuned organ instrument but in a way it really helps give this a track the perfect vibe for the subject matter. Electric guitar riffs come in at end of the song to close out Dice Game as an album.
Dice Game was a surprise for me; not because I expected this album to be horrible or anything like that but because I never heard a full album from Guilty Simpson and didn’t know what to expect. Needless to say, I was very impressed from what I heard on both the ends of the album, both from the production to the lyricism as well as the diversity that was showcased. Also, I appreciated the incorporation and re-flipping of samples that were once used to create classic hip-hop records, especially when that was done in a completely different way from the sample-based songs. Apollo Brown did a very great job as a producer and even though some of the elements on a few tracks didn’t reel me in, I think that Dice Game is a solid body of songs (dope songs at that). For the reasons stated above, I rate Dice Game a 4.5 out of 5.