Alter Ego

Artist: Black-Ty/TyreseTitle: Alter EgoRating: 2 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Maiya Norton

In a climate where the musically jaded are

chanting Hip-Hop is dead, testing the rap waters is probably daunting for Tyrese. In the same window he unveils his emcee skills, Nas, The Game, Jay-Z and other notables have been the catalyst to the resurgence of lyrical dialogue. His new double CD, Alter Ego (J Records) is the platform as the former baby boy debuts his developing rap persona, Black-Ty.

Focusing on the second disc, the Rap album, on "I Salute" Black-Ty forewarns the masses

about taking shots at his craft: "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt, it won't work." That's the green light to brutal honesty? Needless to say, Black-Ty needs time to mature lyrically.

Tyrese's raspy signature sound spawned his popularity among the grown and sexy R&B fans, but his rapping identity is hard to peg. His fickle rhyme style and inconsistent tone reflects his struggle to carve out his own rap swagger. So what's an old artist with a

new angle to do? Consider production and collabos. A Swizz or Neptune beat is always a bet. However, the beat masters on the album are less pronounced,

including Scott Storch, Siege, Mannie Fresh and Jon Lighty. But the tracks aren't representative of their best work.

Black-Ty does follow the stock formula, for better and worse. The song for the ladies, club joint, and the deep introspective track. Though he nailed the variety, he slacked on the originality. Often outshined by guest collabos with Method Man ("Get It In"), Snoop & Kurupt ("Get Low," "Roll The Dice") and David Banner & Lil Scrappy ("U Scared"), among others, Black-Ty lags behind in lyrical creativity. He plays it safe and touches on light topics like money, flashiness, and women.

Black-Ty steps up to bat in his own right on "Ghetto Dayz" a laid-back gloomy track with Game, Kurupt and his own chords on the hook. Reflecting on a California childhood in Watts, Black-Ty's rhyme style

is best-complimented by fellow West Coasters. To switch up the tempo, Mannie Fresh's hands behind "What It Is" force Black-Ty to challenge his lyrical limit; at times mirroring an early Lil' Wayne.

Ty's rapping insecurities are amplified on "Flyaway," featuring Kurupt, where they discuss his transition anxieties over a Teddy Pendergrass sample. On the unnecessary "Alter Ego Outro" it's a Tyrese versus Black-Ty battle in song. If he can't

stand by his skills confidently, who will? Every new

artist has to go through the development stage to

groom their sound and discover the void they are going

to aim to fill in music. Until Black-Ty knows what

that is, neither will anyone else. Not even Tyrese.