Artist: NashawnTitle: NapalmRating: 2 1/2 StarsReviewed by: John Kennedy
Although the Bravehearts made their mark on mainstream Hip-Hop with the club favorite "Oochie Wally", their debut album, Bravehearted, was met with twin thumbs down from critics. But wisely, the group's lyrical standout, Nashawn (formerly known as Millennium Thug), distanced himself to guest status on the project with hopes of solo success. Three years later, Nashawn pastes cousin Nas' stamp of approval to his debut album, Napalm (X-Ray), but proves incapable of excelling as a one-man act.
From Napalm's onset, it's clear that the 13-song opus is tailored to the streets. Nashawn details the ironic demise of a juvenile drug peddler on the piano-laced "S**t Ain't Sweet", while "All Love" offers a rundown of the happenings in the hood, from robberies to stompouts. Nashawn shines brightest, however, when filling the intelligent thug niche etched by mentor Nas. Glimpses of this persona are heard on "Generation", on which Nashawn discusses the recurrent mindset of youths growing up in the concrete jungle. But the album's standout is "Level 7". Here, Nas and Nashawn cruise a dreamy soundscape, exchanging back-and-forth rants about everything from the miseducation of African-Americans to the origin of the pimp: "Why my people in this f**ked up predicament?/We taught the wrong things, in school learned ignorance/Now my religion is/The almighty dollar."
Unfortunately, that's where the creativity ceases. "Ms. Cocaine" employs trite characterization of coke previously used by the likes of 50 Cent and Cam'ron. And even worse, on "Tribute" Nashawn takes swagger jacking to a level that would make Jigga proud (sorry Jay). Throughout the track, Nashawn recites well-known rhyme flows spit by Tupac, Biggie, and Big Pun with subtle alterations in an uninspired fashion.
Whether performing horrendous hooks ("All Summer Long"), inviting awkward collaborations (Ying Yang Twins-assisted "Money Machine") or blowing dust off dated material ("Write Your Name", 2002's audio assault on Dipset), Nashawn fails to meet the potential he displayed as a guest on Nastradamus' "Last Words" or Stillmatic's "My Country". With Napalm, Nashawn promises an inferno, but instead delivers a campfire. S'mores anyone?