Lo Down & Dirty

Artist: Thirstin Howl 3rd & Rack-LoTitle: Lo Down & DirtyRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Paine

Thirstin Howl III reigned as one of the fiercest punchline rappers of the late '90s, culminating with his Eminem collaboration "Watch Deez." In the last five years, Thirstin's albums have been less memorable, though released in plenty. Now signed to Australia's Class A Records, the Brownsville, Brooklyn rapper returns with longtime associate Rack-Lo to release Low Down & Dirty (Green Streets), revealing a more patient approach to albums than fans are used to.

The title tracks shows the value of Rack and Thirstin splitting an album. Both rappers trade verses about stealing, East New York street ills, and casual sex over a soulful loop. Where Thirstin's slow drawl might grow tiresome on the ears, Rack comes with a peppier delivery, working to both MCs' advantage. "Story To Tell" is a story-driven piece, obviously. Rack-Lo's sharp timing propels a track about a crook welcoming a cab driver into a heist. While the shouted chorus lacks creativity, it complements the beat and narration well. Whether telling stories or simply bragging, both rappers hug the familiar script of pulling a jux, boosting name brand clothes, and keeping it grimy in Brooklyn.

The difference in this album may be in Class A producers Stricknine and Sammsonite. With Thirstin's biggest singles "Watch Deez" and "Brooklyn Hard Rock" it was screechy, whimsical production, whereas this album incorporates more sophisticated percussion and sampling. "5 Finger Discount," courtesy of Stricknine, uses darker piano chords, and a similar scratch-chorus to The Luniz' "Broke N***az," to match the lyrical content. "Too Hot" incorporates Blaxploitation horns and tempos as Thirstin and Rack-Lo divide the gritty lyrics between English and Spanish. While lyrics have always driven Thirstin projects, this album has music that stands on its own just as well.

Rack-Lo's presence on Lo Down & Dirty makes headliner Thirstin Howl more interesting. The obvious chemistry and similar styles of the two MCs make this collaboration seamless. Meanwhile, a revamped sound is an upgrade from the Skillionaire projects. Compared to similar BK-based MCs Sean Price or Ill Bill, Thirstin and Rack are just as charismatic, but lack the diversity in their topics. But when it comes to boosting clothes and sharp similes, this duo has stolen and made a niche of their own.