Labtekwon Song of the Sovereign

On his own label, Ankh Ba Records, Labtekwon has released seven albums plus, and yet his name barely brings a knowing nod. With his Mush debut, Labtek hopes to change all that. Song of the Sovereign is a "best of" collection from his back catalogue that serves as an apt introduction to this versatile Baltimore MC. Positive lyrics with a sense of spirituality and soulful jazz production will have fans of Talib Kweli, Mos Def and Gangstarr ecstatic. In fact, there are times when Labtek sounds rather annoyingly like Gangstarr mic man Guru, one of the least charismatic MCs currently releasing music. Unfortunately, like Guru, much of Labtekwon's collection lacks any type of charisma; the vocals are just there. The album finds success in a few instances with some production surprises from Professor Max Mineblo (who produced all but one song), like the up-tempo beat for "Speak On It," which is helped along by some dominating horn stabs, and the old school party jam for his crew ("My Crew"), which invokes thoughts of Biz Markie. There are also a couple of tracks that owe their interest level to more experimental flows, adding variety and attracting attention because they come out with more intensity. "Perversion" is done in a stutter-y double time song style, while "King of Kings" works the vocals as the hi-hat. Even "Bubble Bath" is a curiosity, being Labtekwon's attempt at soul, which was recorded while lying in bed. There are other bright moments scattered throughout Song of the Sovereign, but it's frustrating that nothing else really stands out above and beyond Labtekwon's obvious love for the culture of hip-hop. It's not bad, there just isn't enough chemistry. (Mush)