Officially Omillio Sparks' first solo release, The Payback (Colossal Entertainment/Koch) might make you yearn for a State Property reunion. But, listen longer and youll realize that Sparks shines brighter on his own. The album is no-frills with guest appearances kept to a minimum (only two) and production handled by newcomers Versatile Dilemma and Black Key. Unlike his work on Roc-A-Fella Records, this album focuses solely on Sparks, giving him a chance to prove himself as a solo artist. Despite what the title suggests, there is no dissing of Roc-a-Fellas reigning king. Instead, Sparks uses his 15 minutes of fame to outline his growth from a boy to a man and an artist to an entrepreneur in the rap game. Lyrically, the subject matter doesnt stray far from money, girls, guns and survival, but Sparks excels when he lets out his introspective side and questions the streets that raised him. Instead of simply bemoaning the perils of hood life on Paper Chase Sparks vividly laments, Ever since the seed was planted, yo a playa been a problem/Lost man/Look at Mommy sideways like, Wheres Daddy/He aint here, he in prison/Oh yeah?/Well who the fuck is this ni**a/Early stages of confusion/She used to fight with my uncles/I used to hear them call her b*tches/Then we was told to go to sleep/Left in the dark to think/Sent to school in the morning/Now Im in the classroom buggin/Teacher callin home tellin Mommy how I aint listenin/Mommy gave the word to fix me, now Im sittin in detention/Gassin up classmates for they lunch tickets/Tell em maybe later wed kick it/After I ate, I was straight/I had game/Ghetto rage, pay attention. Synth violins and heavy bass provide the backdrop for this well-constructed song that is one of several gems on the album and sets the tone for more laidback head-nodders like This is the Life and the hardcore Came from Nothing. While he may not serve up Hip-Hop quotables, Sparks strengths lie in his cadence, storytelling ability and honesty; qualities missing in many of todays new rappers. Possessing the type of vulnerability that drew listeners in and can make them lifelong fans, songs like So Down and the title track prove Sparks can provoke thought without having to be complicated. His honesty is enough to keep you interested in what he might say next.Serious songs aside, The Payback is more than just street tales and redemption songs. Up-tempo party-starters like the frenzied Outta Control, the drum-driven Aint My Fault, featuring Peedi Peedi, and the single DJ Turn It Up (produced by Versatile Dilemma) balance out the album with something for everybody. The only missteps are the acoustic In the Ghetto and the ode to the ladies I See You Watching, with the former sounding out of place and the latter sounding too predictable. Nevertheless, Omillio Sparks debut satisfies faithful fans that waited patiently for him to have his turn. Considering the dues hes paid, The Payback is worth the wait. Pressure busts pipes indeed.
Listen to the FULL album HERESOUNDCHECK:Omilllio Sparks f/ Peedi Crakk "Ain't My Fault"
Omillio Sparks "Paper Chase"