Planet Asia: Golden Buddha

“Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.” Any seasoned internet user with an aunt inexplicably active on social media has likely seen this oft-posted quotation. The fact that it is misattributed to Albert Einstein and the incorrect definition of insanity to begin is a testament of our contemporary culture’s ability to recycle half-truths into factless, truthless trash at a dizzying pace. The result: we’re left with waist-high rubble sifting for bodies of truth.

Planet Asia alludes to the above quote in the lead-off track, “Magnetic Lord,” off his newest album, Golden Buddha. And why not? I count 11 (11!) releases since 2015 alone– and this is a man whose been in the game for more than two decades. Despite all this effort, Asia has little fame or acclaim to tout.

Listening to the remaining album, however, this misinformed reference to a baseless quote only emphasizes Asia’s tendency to take Hip-Hop’s most prevalent half-truths and to reduce them to insipid, empty drivel. It’s a rap-by-numbers project; insert hip-hop cliche here.

One standout aspect, if only for its flaccidity, is Asia’s shit-talking. On “I Climb,” he raps that he and his team “don’t make music for n****s who don’t get pussy.” It’s a perfunctory insult with zero punch, not to mention that it suffers from the usual staples of hip-hop shit-talking. Machismo? Check. Heterocentric? Oh sure. Untrue? Probably. Asia’s limp delivery on this track– and most others– doesn’t help either.

When Asia isn’t being trite, then he’s usually just boring. On “Take It Higher,” he chooses to rap about a summertime barbeque. Under the guidance of a wittier, more insightful artist, this could be a fun song about Fresno’s dog days. Instead, Asia sounds like a poor conversationalist narrowly recapping his weekend, especially when he lets the audience know that the edges of his chicken wings were slightly burnt or that partygoers did the cha-cha slide.

Golden Buddha would be almost unlistenable if it wasn’t for Izznyc’s production. His sample-based boom-bap beats are consistently catchy, if unexceptional, and represent the closest thing to heart this record has.

And then there’s “Siddhartha.” It’s the production’s reprehensible red-headed step-child. With its acoustic guitar, dramatic strings, and corny-ass harp, it’s a nauseating return to late 90’s hip-hop/R&B production.

Planet Asia might try and use his long, release-heavy career to legitimize himself as an underground hip-hop elder statesman. Don’t fall for it. As El-P once said, “Motherfucker, you’re not a vet, you’re just old.”

Rating: 3.8/10

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