The Preview

Artist: GrafhTitle: The PreviewRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Bill "Low-Key" Heinzelman

He hasn’t been shot nine times, but Grafh has a story of turmoil and conflict unlike any other. During his teenage years, Grafh witnessed the brutal murders of his two closest role models, one being an O.G. in the streets and the other tragically being his father. With Grafh feeling as if death surrounded him, he soon sought the comfort of the streets. It wasn't until Chaz, the CEO of Black Hand Entertainment, took him under his wing that he started to go down the right path and focus on rap. Since then Grafh has acquired a solid street buzz from his various mixtape tracks. Now aligned with the Dame Dash Music Group, Grafh is prepping for his debut album Autografh later this year. In order to build up the hype, Grafh's newest release is The Preview - Official Mixtape (Sure Shot Records), which features a variety of his mixtape material.

What separates Grafh from the average NYC mixtape emcee is his unique flow and delivery. Grafh is able to bounce and in out of the beat in an almost awkward fashion that always seems to work. In addition, he packs an arsenal of quirky punch lines, which are accentuated by a grizzly and commanding voice. All of these strong points are evident throughout The Preview. The album's true gem is "Get Shot Boy", as Alchemist's intense synth keys provide Grafh with the necessary backdrop to deliver his usual assortment of gritty street tales. It doesn't get any prettier on the aptly titled "Stab Somebody", which succeeds due to Grafh's catchy 50 Cent like hook. Grafh's knack for producing addicting hooks also shows up on the Scram Jones produced "Get It", and the standout track "How We Livin'".

Grafh's unlimited potential is clearly visible when he sticks to his guns and delivers the uncompromising street tracks he is known for. However, he runs into trouble when he becomes too ambitious and tries to force the issue. On "I Ain't Playin'" Grafh calls on Stat Quo to help him deliver a bouncy southern anthem, but unfortunately the two fail to gel over Develop's knock off dirty south production. With "Say Yeah", Grafh looks to mix "South Jamaica, Queens with South London", in a clumsy attempt to provide a big commercial hit. However, a generic Jazze Pha like hook overshadows producer Baby Grand's assortment of lush keys. In addition, the frenzy pace of "Born To Live" finds Grafh haphazardly experimenting with a double timed flow, resulting in only more filler material.

Even though The Preview attempts to accomplish too many things, you still come away with an appreciation for what Grafh can do. His creative wordplay and delivery make him one of the more unique street emcees coming out of New York City. Hopefully, we can expect better direction and focus when the long delayed Autografh finally drops.