The Barcode

Artist: Lord TariqTitle: The BarcodeRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Jayson Rodriguez Before Jay-Z and Nas were…

Artist: Lord TariqTitle: The BarcodeRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Jayson Rodriguez

Before Jay-Z and Nas were considered rap royalty there was Lord Tariq, the self-anointed “King of the Mixtapes.” The Bronx-bred emcee was a fixture on Doo Wop tapes, rolled with the Money Boss Players, and notched a top-ten hit alongside fellow rhyme slinger Peter Gunz -- all before it was trendy to vie for the crown. Yet he failed to capitalize on his majestic pedigree; he never delivered a solo album. With The Barcode (Team Saga), however, Tariq makes his triumphant return for one last shot at the throne.

LT stakes his claim early on with the bass heavy, Buckwild-produced gem “Hey Gangsta.” Riding the bouncy track as regally as King Jaffe Joffer, Tariq taunts wankstas and posers alike. “Fuck your industry talk, how I rhyme, how I’m nice/ Exploit what I do? Nigga this is my life.” Tariq then revisits his mixtape glory days on the DJ Kay Slay-assisted “Lock In” and “3rd Person,” which finds the grizzled vet spitting on each with the intensity of a new jack trying to score his first deal. When he and Gunz reunite for “13th Commandment” it’s déjà vu, only this time around junior Bomber Cory Gunz joins the fracas.

But the album isn’t a complete coronation. Although Tariq treats his bars like candy and eats them on the Charlemagne-laced “We Got It,” a weakly sung R&B hook by an indistinguishable female crooner spoils the song’s taste. Similarly, “Spit That” and “Hurr” suffer the same fate, but with mundane choruses by Tariq himself. On the latter, he slurs: “I’m about to leave the club with…/ And I’m high, I smoke a dub with…” Not to mention tired lines on the track like, “I’m Rick James, bitch.”

Even at Tariq’s least creative, though, such as the “Phone Tap” knockoff caper “Beep Beep,” he’s entertaining. His throaty vocals and calm demeanor lend balance to newcomer Aasim’s adrenaline-charged flow. And on “Did It All,” where Tariq takes note of his pitfalls while also taking a few not-so-subtle shots at the Shady one and Mr. Half A Dollar, he reminds us all what made him so noble in the first place. “I got a lust for this game, in which niggas claimed that they mastered/ Not a preacher, but I try reaching and teaching you bastards.” All hail the Lord.