Artist: SupernaturalTitle: S.P.I.T.Rating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Paine

The transition from freestyle acclaim to noteworthy albums hasn’t been historically successful. From Busy Bee to Craig G, MC’s who rocked many crowds get stifled in the Discman…iPod. After 2003’s mildly received The Lost Freestyle Files, freestyle laureate, Supernatural presents S.P.I.T: Spiritual Poetry Ignites Thought (Up Above), an effort that showcases Nat’s pen, instead of his improvisation. But can any recorded song generate the same excitement as Supernatural’s brand of live lyrical gymnastics?

“Roll Up” will not. Of several songs tackling tired topics, this collaboration with B. Real dwindles. Simple cadences and tongue-in-cheek metaphors restrain the host’s two verses. Likewise, “The Children”, albeit with strong intentions, aimlessly touches on corrupted youth. Through stories, one male and one female, Supernatural encourages awareness and empathy. Though realistic, neither story goes anywhere, leaving too many undone questions and four minutes of wasted space. The better offerings begin with “The Show Down.” With a slow piano ballad, Supernatural deftly combines brazen compliments to himself with revealed insecurities. A strong hook, and evocative beat add to the effect, and the MC proves to be a successful songwriter too. For simple nods and smiles, “The Black Opera” with Raekwon proves to be another bright point. Supernatural matches Rae with a sauntering flow and more vivid imagery as the two describe self-righteousness from end to end. This is the type of opportunity and chemistry that the last album failed to realize.

In terms of production, Supernatural utilizes a similar lineup to I Self Devine’s album – the collective effort of Vitamin D, Jake One, and BeanOne. DJ Muggs and Evidence also add some credibility to the bill. Muggs’ “The Black Opera” sounds more RZA-like than anything on his GZA collaborative album. High-pitched scratching, string chops, and daunting percussion heighten the drama. Softer, more instrumental-based works like the acoustic guitar on “It Ain’t a Game” or the piano on “The Show Down” feel better than the more aggressive efforts. On the upbeat, Evidence’s “Off Top” proves to be Supernatural’s biggest reminder of his past, while also serving as Ev’s most daring work since The Platform. Like the lyrics, S.P.I.T.’s music is hit or miss.

Supernatural is still finding himself. Like his peers, he’s got some songs that tackle substantial issues, yet don’t go beneath the surface or have much insight. However, when he seems to not be trying, Nat succeeds in establishing himself away from the spontaneous. With some interesting collaborations and a dash of humility, more identity is coming across than ever before. The only remaining question is how will proficiency in one craft compare to a history of elite excellence in another?