Once You Go Blak

Artist: Baby BlakTitle: Once You Go BlakRating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Alvin aqua boogie Blanco

Rap stylist Baby Blak is an emcee out of step with the times. To begin with he has the audacity to not focus his raps on cars, rims, watches and all the other excesses that can be seen on any given episode of MTV Cribs. Instead, the West Philadelphia native chooses to kick rhymes about starting scholarships for the kids, shady associates, inner city drama and of course, supercilious battle raps. Some nerve.

On the intro to his superb debut, Once You Go Blak, he reveals 1974 as his born year, making him closer to 30 years old and privy to a wealth of material to mine into a limitless cache of rhyme jewels. But those gems don’t involve too much flossing, per se, but edutainment. On “Diamond (Diemon)” he speaks on true cost of bling with regards to lost human lives due to African diamond mining while on “Economix” he addresses the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. On “Wake Up” he is subtly schooling potential listeners to the block hustler’s endless circle or the missteps of women who lack self worth. The hook sums it up, “I used to walk in your shoes, took the same steps, used to do what you do, just to get a rep, I was just like you, get money, have sex, smoke weed, drink brew but in real life…”

But any emcee can rap about society’s ills, dead prez anyone? But Blak mixes up the teachings with verbal dexerity. Simply, he’s adept with the haughtily slick verse and thrives in showing it off. The Soul Supreme produced “Firewater” with it’s frenetic horns and surging strings fit comfortable with Blaks flow. Just peep the third verses grammar; “You Burger King, I’m filet mignon, so where the beef/you mayo, I’m Grey Poupon/You lego, you Play-Do, you make me yawn, I’m Evian…”

With the lyrics plentiful, Blak went West to get his tracks with DJ Revolution contributing a few as well as Joey Chavez (“Fallin’ Down). His Philly brethren Jay Ski provides heat with a thick baseline on “Friends,” which finds Blak dropping venom about backstabbing friends and associates with ulterior motives over what sounds like synthesized swallowing. Overall the beats suitably bump but not enough to rock a dance club or simple enough to have many lazy radio programmers add them to their cookie cutter playlists, their (and your) loss.

Wielding a combat scarred mic in one hand and a sincerely mindful (conscious is too simple) one in the other, Blak is an emcee capable of balancing profound content with old school mic machismo. By no means a rookie (besides critical received acclaim with his group ILL Advised he was also featured on Jazzy Jeff’s The Magnificent project), Once You Go Blak is one of the year’s freshest debuts.