Artist: Black SheepTitle: 8WM/NOVAKANERating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Larusso McFly

After a 12-year lay-off, Black Sheep-the "doo-doo eating, vomit tasting," in a good way, "low lifes" of the Native Tongue family-have laced up the shoes, thrown on the gloves, and returned

to rap's boxing ring with 8WM/NOVAKANE (Bumrush). In an industry where longevity is the exception and not the rule, this would

either be a triumphant George Foreman-like return to glory, or a Mike Tyson debacle. While the album has a few jabs and one strong uppercut, it's not

yet ready for heavyweight competition.

Attempting to recapture the wit and creativity of their masterful debut A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing, for self no less with Mr. Long (formerly Lawnge) departed, the album opens with "U Mean I Don't", a 2006 update to the Wolf parody "U Mean I'm Not." While the target back then was hardcore rap, "I Don't" finds Dres taking the piss out of the current Southern domination of the club scene. Unfortunately, that's where the similarities between these two records end. 8WM is more along the lines of Black Sheep's polished, serious, and ultimately weaker sophomore album,

Non-Fiction. While the hard-hitting "Whodat", piano driven paper-chase tale "Grew Up", and soul-searching "Novakane" (where Dres laments, "I thought we'd lower the prices/Not give companies the license to divide and conquer us

with the modern day devices") are above-average tracks, they still come across without bite.

While one can't expect an artist to remain in a state of arrested development-even Jim Carrey stopped talking out of his ass-light-hearted fare is what suits Dres best. His name may never be mentioned in any Top 10 emcee lists, but Dres has the ability to put a beat on his shoulder and carry it with charisma and his distinct vocal swagger. All too often, the down-tempo production on 8WM (handled entirely by Vitamin D and BeanOne with the exception of one track) doesn't play to Dres' strengths, creating forgettable songs such as "Be Careful," "Hey," and the title track. Rather than settle for the ordinary, Wolf went the extra mile. Clever tales of

"Strobelite Honeys" have given way to standard can I get with ya filler ("Shorty").

Though at times slightly outdated, on the breezy Showbiz produced "Sunshine" Dres proclaims himself a "Dough nut, trying to get this Krispy Krème"and proves himself relevant in the current rap landscape. Never is that more evident than on the album‚s standout track "B-Boys Theme". The horn-driven, 90's throwback jam makes one wish the entire album went in this direction. Perhaps for Black Sheep, 8WM was just a sparring session. With a little more training, maybe the Sheep will be ready for a title bout.