Grand Agent By Design

Hailing from North Philly, Grand Agent proves himself to be a remarkably assured MC, turning in a solidly consistent effort by getting a little help from his friends. This isn't one of those guest-list friendly albums where the supposed main artist drops one verse on every track, but a well-balanced effort that calls on collaborators to accentuate Grand Agent's strengths. Chops, known as the producer and MC for fellow Philadelphia crew the Mountain Brothers, checks in for a fair number of the tracks, showing off a new and improved sheen to his already tight production. The beats are spare and funky and sound like slightly tweaked versions of the dusty fare emanating from New York's record scouring producers in the early '90s. It's no surprise then he seems to have become friendly with the Diggin' In the Crates crew. There are appearances by Lord Finesse and A.G. from the famed collective but he probably takes his liking for the crew a bit far when he jacks the beat and even some lyrics from DITC's Diamond's "Best Kept Secret" on "New Mingling." But joints like "Every Five Minutes" and "Waughter" more than make up for this indiscretion and serve as showcases for his nonchalant yet skilful flow. (Landspeed)