American Me

Artist: CL SmoothTitle: American MeRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Kye Stephenson

"I reminisce for a spell, or shall I say think back..." Ahh yes, it's been over a decade since those words first spilled out over those beautiful horns. And CL Smooth is still here, ready to recapture the successes of past with patented soulful backdrops and smooth-as-Parkay lyrics on his first official solo release American Me (Shaman Work).

For those new jacks unfortunate enough to catch CL in his primal days, "I Can't Help It" stands as testament to CL's sandblasted texture. With hoppin' drums countering the wailing horns, CL doesn't bring it back so much as bring it forward, flowing better than most of today's current mic grippers ("You wanna toss yours in the ring/Go right to the king/I get rid of'em quick with all that you bring"). Adding further to his magnificent catalogue, the Mike Loe produced "Smoke in the Air" is a funk-fried jambalaya that tastes splendid. "This is my theme music to enter/Squeeze till I'm empty/CL pop on out, crowd in a frenzy." The Mecca Don personified.

Also eargasmic are the smooth "Warm Outside" produced by Rsonist of the Heatmakerz and the electric guitar charged "The Impossible," where CL attacks the mic kamikaze style. But all is not peaches however, besides the aforementioned, American Me can be bland at times. "The Stroll" and "All We Ever Know" don't do much to enhance the overall aural experience, thus subtracting from the pluses. And though the array of relatively unknown beatmakers employed do a praise-worthy job of providing solid backdrops, the token Pete Rock track ("It's a Love Thing") leaves a watering mouth unfulfilled.

But yearning for the days of old is a thing of the past. It's a new day, a new CL Smooth and American Me bundles up more than enough freshness to fill the soul.