John Smith Ol' Man Winter

John Smith was a hungry young rapper into battles and braggadocio when he debuted with Peanuts & Corn a little more than a decade ago, but for his fourth solo album, he shows his more mature side. Sure, he still has the audacity to brag "I'm top five in the country, Canada, easy," on opening track "30 Years Old," but he also draws upon personal experience to create an album about growing up poor, partying hard, his relationships with the opposite sex and getting older. He also drops an ode to hip-hop with "A Love Song" and calls out douchebags on "Bros Before Who?" Ol' Man Winter has an unabashedly honest heart protected by a layer of sharp barbs, but that braggadocio is backed up by the delivery of a veteran MC, both confident and comfortable. His swagger is made easier by mcenroe, who provides the Winnipeg, MB rapper with some of the best material of his career. Many of the beats, including "relationship" songs "Blindsided" and "Bruises and Bitemarks," have that trademark mcenroe sound and a few others offer some variety from his usual mid-tempo headnodders and mellow ballads. "Thirstday," "Ol' Man Winter" and "Ripping Tickets at the Tilt-A-Whirl" are minimal, up-tempo jams, the first two dominated by an elastic bass line and clapping/blocks on the chorus, while the latter incorporates synth. And "Strobelight Dummies" is a schizophrenic, strange club jam. It should come as no surprise that these two long-time collaborators sound natural together, but by maintaining the balance between braggadocio and introspective, Ol' Man Winter serves as the best introduction to John Smith. (Urbnet)