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Black Rob - Life Story (Bad Boy)

Black Rob thinks he's "the best thing since ham and grits", having sold 500,000 copies of this album Stateside. Hopefully Irish consumers have more discerning taste, for this is truly awful. Despite being an East Coast record, it doesn't feature a single Wu Tang Clan guest slot, proof positive that, despite falling standards and commercial whoring, the Wu retain some element of self-respect. Instead this album has Puff Daddy's derivative, watered down, hand all over it. Black Rob is overly laid-back: there's no passion, no bitterness. Indeed a tone of resignation and an unhealthy reverence for Puffy are his trademarks.

The production values are third-rate with attempts to recreate A Tribe Called Quest risible and efforts to copy the distinctive, eerie Wu-Tang beats laughable. 'Whoa' is the only thing the album has going for it, with Buckwild's production style raising it slightly above the turgid nonsense that fills the other 20 tracks. Rob himself seems to set himself up as an amalgamation of GZA and Method Man, but with neither the style of delivery nor the rhyming imagination of either. The fact that Rob only gets one track of his own without a guest vocalist speaks volumes; they didn't trust his rhymes enough. Even the occasional quality artist who does guest are restrained: Lil' Kim is almost non-existent on 'Espacio'.

'You Don't Know Me' is the best thing on this album, but only if you can ignore the irritating chorus. Compare this to Dr Dre's "2001" and you realise just how far ahead West Coast hip-hop currently is. If you want a similar sound, but vastly improved buy the Wu-Tang Clan's "Enter the 36 chambers", GZA's "Liquid sword" or for its lighter moments choose A Tribe Called Quest's "Beats rhymes and life". Whatever you do, don't line Sean Combs' already bulging wallet by buying such unoriginal, third-rate garbage.

Neil Callanan

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