Artist: Guerilla BlackTitle: Guerilla CityRating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Shawn Lawrence James
How the West was won. In 1992, a well-known rapper/producer by the name of Dr. Dre exploded to Hip-Hop’s forefront with his timeless classic, The Chronic. Carefully sewing his intoxicating lyrics to create an ambiance of gangsta grit and 70’s Blaxploitational funk, this album, along with groundbreaking releases such as Ice Cube’s Amerikkka’s Most Wanted and Snoop Doggy Dogg’ Doggystyle helped push the left coast to the forefront of Hip-Hop’s ever evolving scene, pushing aside the leather medallions and Malcolm X T-Shirts and replacing them with bottles of Ole English and Chuck Taylors.
Much has changed since then. With the murder of Tupac, the untimely incarceration of Suge Knight (Does Tha Row have any new material to release?) and the lack of promising releases in the last couple of years (With the exception of Dr. Dre’s opus 2001), The West slowly retreated from the spotlight it once shined so vibrantly in. Listeners instead found an alternative in the Midwestern and Southern region as artists such as Ludacris and Kanye West bask in the West’s former glory. In comes Guerilla Black. The Compton-bred MC who is famously noted for his vocal delivery, which is eerily similar to that of The Notorious B.I.G, makes a bold attempt to help start the West’s resurgence with his debut outing Guerrilla City (Virgin). Instead of following the patented G-Funk routine, Black cleverly crafts a universal sound mixing 80’s reggae, Meringue, and Hip-Hop together to put the West Coast “on his back.”
He wastes no time to prove himself worthy of this task on the opening, introspective “Hearts Of Fire” where he spits: “I sacrificed so much for my career/ That’s why my eyes shed blood for tears.” The album hits a screeching halt early when one is met with the cliché I-Love-You-Baby-Girl-I-Want-You cut “You’re The One.” With vocal assistance from Mario Winans, Black falls into the hopeless trend of tasteless “R&B” cuts that has plagued the majority of the 2004 freshman class. He gives this formula a revamped twist on the much more successful “Girlfriend.” Inspired by a creative infusion of Caribbean snares and tropical melody, Black finds himself spitting sizzling game at his object of affection. Unfortunately, Black is a victim of his own circumstance. He can’t seem to escape his B.I.G- esque cadence and at times, he comes off irritating. Tracks like “Say What” and “Guerilla City” provides a strain on the ears and his simplistic flow will have listeners rushing to push the Fast Forward button.
Overall, Black provides a moderate debut with his aforementioned universal blend of party enriched cuts (the Rodney Jerkins produced “Trixx”, “Sunrise”) and emotion drenched songs (“My First”) that will guarantee listeners all shades in the color of Hip-Hop, while still managing to rep his hometown. He lacks the complexity, charisma and conceptual genius that his forefathers have worked so hard to lay for him and without this, he could easily find himself lost in the struggle of creating an identity for himself and could forever be deemed as “the cat that sounds like Biggie”.