Guerilla Black Guerilla City

Guerilla Black arrives on the scene with a familiar flow that he makes his own throughout this mostly stellar debut album. First thing’s first: Guerilla bears a more than passing resemblance to the Notorious B.I.G. It’s okay though, he’s not hiding anything here. The record opens with "Hearts of Fire,” a stunning autobiographical rap where Black mocks predictable disses ("he look like Big, he sound like Big/yo, I’m B-L-A-C-K nigga, ya dig?”) and chronicles his many hardships, including losing his young wife to meningitis while the couple were on the streets. "Hearts” comes off like a rookie version of Dr. Dre’s seen-it-all rant, "The Watcher,” and perhaps for good reason. Like Dre, Black calls Compton his stomping grounds and tracks like "Hearts” and "Guerilla City” sound like pure Dre productions (complete with a touch of Nate Dogg-esque harmonising) even though they aren’t. In spite of his initial disclaimer, songs like "Compton,” find Black bringing the Biggie big time with a bit of dancehall thrown in for good measure. Not surprisingly, the resemblance also brings about some unfortunate Bad Boy-ish production. The R&B flavoured "You’re the One” certainly enters this realm, while a stompy (strip-) club jam like "Trixxx” comes complete with a Mase-like mumbled chorus. "Guerilla Nasty” features the requisite moaning, heavy-breathing tricks designed to bloat the ego of a ladies man rapper. Such unfortunate instances actually downplay the touching odes to his late wife that appear sporadically on the album. But if there is a lack of consistency within Guerilla Black’s "woe is me/I’m a playa pose,” it’s redeemed by his extraordinary lyrical tales and adventurous musical variety. (Virgin)