Outlawz 4 Life

Artist: OutlawzTitle: Outlawz 4 LifeRating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Paine

On their latest album, Outlawz 4 Life (One Nation/33rd Street), Kastro, EDI, and Noble press on defiantly without ‘Pac. The album is their attack on a marketplace that may have never given them a fair shot.

No longer with former member Napolean’s services, the remaining trio seems to have tighter chemistry. Each track has the entire group in succinct form. This makes guests more welcomed, such as Bun B on “Big Ballin’”. Aside from the poignant, “Losin’ My Mind,” the ‘Lawz have fallen from dramatic war raps and pained reflection, and moved towards money and street oriented rhymes. This may take the edge off for hardcore fans, but it also helps create a new, fresher image for a group often linked with the past.

The production on the album is the best change. While Aftermath’s Focus may be the most notable contributor, with three efforts, it is in-house producer J-Mack that makes the album’s best moments. J-Mack fails to establish one thorough sound, but he does show classic Outlawz ears on “Smiling Faces,” while taking risks with “Sacred Vows.” These aren’t very complex songs, but they may very well age better than what the Outlawz have cataloged thus far.

The biggest flaw of Outlawz 4 Life is its desire to do too many things. At times, they get grimy with an M.O.P-like Rock style (“Sacred Vows”) while they also push for Crunk appeal (“Better It Get”). While this may be the best slab of Outlawz material put on an album in five years, it feels random at best – something 2Pac never seemed to settle for.