Welcome To The Hood

Artist: Ice CityTitle: Welcome To The HoodRating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Jayson Rodriguez

Putting "Ya mans and 'em" on is as much a perk for rappers today as pushing a Bentley, sipping Cristal, or starring in a straight-to-DVD flick. Freeway, a beneficiary of the latter benefits as both Beanie Sigel's homeboy and a successful solo artist, is just the latest emcee to take advantage of the trend. On Welcome To The Hood (Sure Shot), Free introduces his homies Face Money, Bars' and Hydro, collectively known as Ice City. This Philly foursome, however, can't quite match the pedigree as their in-town patriarchs, the Chain Gang.

"U Talk It, I Live It," with its brutish bass line, is one of the few cuts where each member shines as they spit about their nihilistic nativity. On "Ride Up," a tenacious Freeway teams with Joe Budden for a New Jersey Turnpike treat. "They Ain't Ride'n" and "I'll Take Ya Lady," featuring former member Peedi Crakk, finds IC proving they got what it takes to rock the mic--sans Free.

Face Money, who sounds like a mixture of Peedi and Freeway, shows promise throughout the album. But the lack of subject matter on Welcome To The Hood makes him, Bars, and Hydro become redundant halfway through. Not to mention the incongruous punchlines ("More bread than ginger," Hydro on "Lock It Down") that bog down several tracks.

Production and clever choruses provide most of the highlights on Welcome To The Hood, along with Freeway's fervent raps. It's not that this collection is a bad album necessarily; it has some great moments. But the Ice City members could use more depth to make them more dangerous. Instead of State Property, this Philadelphia outfit, unfortunately, is more like on probation.