Baby Blak Once You Go Blak

As one half of Philly hip-hop crew Ill Advised, Baby Blak has been around for a while, but his name will also to be familiar to those who were privy to Jazzy Jeff’s The Magnificent album from last year, where he guested on several tracks. If you’re expecting the same butter-smooth vibes on this album, however, you may be surprised. Baby Blak is a gritty uncompromising MC who balances a pugilistic freestyle-honed style with a conceptual flair. While it’s highly evident Baby Blak relishes fierce lyrical displays, he’s at his strongest here when he refuses to waver from a particular subject. With the air of a seasoned veteran Baby Blak lays down cautionary lyrics on "Wake Up,” and on the self-explanatory "The Youth.” And he affirms his resolutely anti-jiggy stance by outlining the grim suffering of the people of Sierra Leone to clueless materialistic MCs on the ominously scored "Diamonds (Diemon).” While the record cover came off like a dubious attempt to employ Hottentot Venus imagery, the only time he lets his amorous side out is on the forgettable "So Many.” It’s a rare misstep as production support from DJ Revolution and Jazzy Jeff cohorts Kevin Brown and P-Smoova among many others ensure Baby Blak’s unvarnished street stories gain worthy aural backdrops. (BBE)