Lost and Found

Artist: Will SmithTitle: Lost and FoundRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Houston Williams

Will Smith is madly in love with Hip-Hop.

This is the only justifiable reason why Philly’s first prince of rap would even bother making another rap album. When you are a $20 million-per-film sort of movie star, who needs to rap? However, when you are making that sort of money, you can do whatever you want and Will Smith does just that on Lost and Found (Interscope), a return to his roots.

Eminem once boasted, “Will Smith don’t gotta cuss in his raps to sell records, well I do Lost and Found bears no “Parental Advisory” sticker and listeners looking for raunchy music should look elsewhere. But, what the Philly native lacks in vulgarity, he more than makes up with refreshing candor. On “Party Starter,” Big Willie comments on the sweeping changes the industry has undergone since his 80’s heyday. “A call for the days for the unadulterated/ When the artistry was cultivated/ You know back when rap was smart and multilayered/ We could rap without A&R’s and ultimatums.” Furthermore, Will gets laced with a plethora of quality beats from The Freshmen , Will’s Overbrook Productions, Polow The Don and others like Kwame.

Will’s candor extends throughout Lost and Found and frankly, he exerts more freedom of speech than your typical gangsta rapper. For example, on “Tell Me Why,” he and Mary J. Blige craft an emotional rollercoaster ride that rivals Jadakiss’ “Why.” With emotion unseen in the movie star, he yells, “Tell me why did James Byrd, Jr. have to be touched/ Tell me why did Martin and Malcolm depart from us/ tell me why did the sniper make that little boy shoot/ And why is human life always denied /Tell me why did Mandela have to live in a cage/ Tell me why did my brother Sterling die at that age…What am I supposed to say to my kids when they say ‘Why?’” Other songs like “Ms. Holy Roller” and “Mr. Niceguy” address weighty personal topics.

The other half of the album is pure, clean fun and that’s something sorely lacking in Hip-hop music these days. The beats are bouncy and geared to get the party poppin’ like it was live from Union Square in 1986. Truthfully, the problem with Lost and Found is outside of this album. It would appear that the label (Interscope Records) is more willing to put all of its energies in artists like 50 Cent, The Game and Eminem. Certainly, that’s a reality, but with the right push this album would be a platinum seller. And artistically, it more than rivals 50 Cent and Eminem, but falls under Game’s debut.

There are times that Big Will Smith sounds old school’ish, and that’s just what the game needs – a touch of old school. Will Smith was lost but only time will tell if fans will find him.

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