Black Spade To Serve With Love

While the words "St. Louis hip-hop” no doubt conjure up images of Nelly, Chingy and words spelled with too many Rs for most, producer/MC Black Spade shows there’s a lot more going on in his hometown than tip drills and wack grammar. Buoyed by a tight combination of smooth synth soul, off-kilter beats and witty, laidback rhymes, To Serve With Love manages a strong head-nodding vibe from beginning to end as Black Spade tackles each of his respective loves. An equally capable singer and MC, Spade does well by his heavy soul influences, cutting three-part vocals on tracks like "She’s The One” and "Evil Love” with a quality that may give Phonte some serious competition. The producer’s love of warm synths plays heavily on shuffling tunes like "Actioneer” before plunging to murky depths on "The Ship Has Sailed,” backed by dirty ’80s drums and Spade’s first lyrical muscle flex. Artists like Common, Jazzy Jeff, Pete Rock and J Dilla are cited as influences to close out the record, and this disc properly follows in their steps. (Om)