It’s a little too easy to ramble on about the death of Dipset. Yes, their flamboyant assholism in the early 2000s now hinges on a bleary-eyed Cam’ron, a trend-chasing Jim Jones, and their avant-ridiculous ear for production carried on exclusively by Heatmakerz replacement AraabMuzik, who has slung his trebly street hiss over to the world of EDM, dubstep, and anywhere else that’ll claim him. So, to start with the obvious: On Juelz Santana’s God Will’n, we’re a long way from the OCD smooth talker of Cam’s “Hey Ma” (“Don’t touch nothing, sit in the car”), the boner joker of “There It Go” (“Move it til’ you feel something hard on your back, uh”) or even just the guy who was supposed to release I Can’t Feel My Face with Lil Wayne for, like, half-a-decade now.
But God Will’n opener “Sho Nuff” is a Dipset-being-dipshits charmer: The song samples black-fu lark The Last Dragon and rhymes “butt shots” with “butt shots.” So maybe we’re all just asking a bit much of an aging-out absurdist? Or maybe people are harshing on Juelz because everybody else is doing Dipset’s shit-eating-grin raps these days, and it all feels kinda perfunctory when they just stay in their lane. Or maybe it’s because some of us are almost 30 years old now. A couple of tracks after “Sho Nuff,” there’s “Bad Guy,” which begins with the classic “Bad Guy” speech from Scarface because, yeah, of course it does. But it also includes a goofy-ass thud of a line like “Don’t be a fuckin’ dum dum / I’ll get your clique hit for a lump sum.” There’s also a song called “Blog That.” Yep, yep. Santana moves from sober death-wish rap like “My Will” to somber Deathwish-like revenge rap on “Shootem Up,” and he isn’t entirely overshadowed by man-of-the-moment Future on “Nobody Knows,” and that’s something (he does well with should-be-man-of-the-moment Jeremih, as well). The tape’s second half opens up and expands on the trap-screech that knows no region or boundaries at the moment. “Both Sides” features Chicago’s most sturdy young rapper Lil Durk and Dipset doofus Jim Jones, and it just feels right. With God Will’n, Santana is certainly in the middle of something — and that’s more than you can say about the rest of Dipset in 2013.
And here’s the thing: If Juelz Santana were a fresh-off-the-streets MC, God Will’n would easily hover around in the French Montana and Chinx Drugz lane of New York-based southern-not-southern rap that Dipset began carving out long ago. Styles P’s Diamond Life mixtape from last year, one part Harry Fraud NYC freakiness (even if Fraud doesn’t appear) and the sort of skittering street shit that was inexplicably considered pop when the 2000s kicked off is another point of comparison here. Cheap, shiny post-Puffy stuff. Also, Rick Ross, of course. Namely, because Santana’s flow, no longer as youthful, bumps and barks like Rozay, whose flow was sort of sleepy Santana in the first place.