Artist: White BoyTitle: No Gray AreaRating: 2 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Paine
Milkbone was a somewhat cool name in its time. Yeah, it dealt with the obvious. Granted, that was 1995. A decade later, any rapper calling himself White Boy is creating an elevation to the treadmill of the industry (I mean did Black Child ever get any rec?). White Boy is a greater-Chicago area rapper who apparently has been grinding it out on the low. With a strong buzz concerning his first video (“U Know”), the rapper unveils his album chock-full-of guests, including the highest profile figure in Hip-Hop, Kanye West. Will No Gray Area hold up to its sample, or is it lost in a black hole?
White Boy is a new artist making a debut impression on the world. Despite his high profile single, a lot is required to create a market for the rapper, lyrically. No Gray Area has some worthwhile qualities in lyrics. White Boy rides a beat well. His delivery ranges from very slow on “U Turn My Whole World Around” to very quick on “Hold Tight.” White Boy’s voice also serves him nicely. The main problem, which is clearly unavoidable though, is content. Despite hooks that mislead a listener into believing there’s a message in a track, there is essentially nothing coming from White Boy’s mouth besides rhyming words. Even a piece like “Growing Pains,” goes in circles, as White Boy cannot rap a storyline or convey any sense of emotion. Equally, nearly every track features a guest. Clearly, White Boy needs to deal with his own sixteen bars before he dares expand to forty-eight, and he knows it. Among those guests, Kanye and Twista make high profile, above average appearances. The most pleasing guest though, is former Rap-A-Lot sensation, Johnny P, who peppers up two tracks with great guest crooning.
The production on the album is far stronger than the lyrics. The lead single “U Know” may be the album’s most exciting musical moment . Kanye’s groundbreaking recreation of a Doo-Wop track is a new turn in his seemingly unstoppable direction. Cheap, easy, heavy sample tracks like “It’s Alright” and “Can’t Get Out the Game” are soothing moments. But others, such as “Where Da Party At?” and “What!” are just awkward moments that belong on a demo, not the album. In between though, his album celebrates the Chicago sound at the height of its relevance. If White Boy manages to strike the appeal of the club-minded listener off of this album’s single, the beats should not disappoint.
This album lacks everything it will take to be worth talking about in a year, let alone five. The rapper seems to deal with very club-minded topics. Rather than keep it street, White Boy dwells on materialistic symbols (Cadillac’s, Remy, & Dro) and status signs of a gangster (“Man Up”). His production is to match. At the peak of soul-sampling, White Boy enlists Kanye and several producers who are chasing Kanye’s sound. Despite a rather impressive debut guest list, No Gray Area depends on immediate mass appeal. If “Bling Bling” can do it, so can “U Know.” But just like B.G., White Boy will never be a quotable rapper.