Artist: VoiceTitle: GumboRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Kathy Iandoli

For years, the male-dominated rap world has emphasized the scarcity of talented female MC's that could sustain "flow-tation" as they swim the mainstream. Previously, our options were sex, sex, and Lauryn Hill. Now, we have sex and sex. Of course, there is an army of independent talent like Jean Grae who completely negates the previous statements once exiting the doors of the major labels. Another young contender is NOLA native Voice, whose LP Gumbo (Featherperm Records) delivers a welcomed break from the overdone norm.

Gumbo offers the everyday life of a woman living her art-through 9-5 jobs, egotistical men, televised smut peddling, politics and the pure love of music. Like the title suggests, the album is incredibly textured with a combination of elements that piece together a delicious mix. The opener "Fantasy Pt. 1" boldly questions the decline of quality Hip-Hop in both lyric and video, set to the pace of a jazzy organic backbeat. Following is "Necksnap" with the revealing hook, "I wish I would've started rapping a long time ago, but my pops was into acting and he kinda ran the show." That explains that. It is also on this track where the undeniable influence of Bahamadia pervades, and then again on "Guerilla Hustlin'," where Voice flips syllables beyond the bpm of the rest of the album.

A minor setback is the pacing of the work, where intermittent instrumentals like "Sunny Outside (in L.A.)" and "Circus Tourist" appear more like a plug for her homeboy's production than a segue. Some topics of the everyday struggle come off mildly whiny like in "Clock In," where customers at Voice's grocery store job are chastised for attempting to address her by name. Further, the sarcastic undertones of the "if I made it" ambitions may leave the talented MC bare if she actually does make it. Still as the album rides out to the end with the melodic "Total Eclipse" and the smooth spoken "1000 Summers," it's obvious that Voice oozes with potential.

A work like Gumbo is a definite step forward for a FeMC worthy of being heard. With both the voice and the skills, the sky’s the limit.