Review: Blaq Poet

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

After hearing him dismiss contemporary hip-hop trends on Tha Blaqprint's opener, "I-Gittin," you might confuse Blaq Poet for a veteran rapper made bitter by age and declining relevance. But the Queens MC has been salty since Day One: While still an unknown teenager in 1987, he brazenly fired shots at everyone from Rakim to LL Cool J on the one-size-fits-all dis record "All Hell's Breaking Loose."

Poet actually turns the hostility level down on Tha Blaqprint, which is technically his debut LP, despite numerous solo singles and three albums with the groups PHD and Screwball. Not that he's softened: He continues to trade in the gothic thug-rap aesthetic that flourished among his fellow Queensbridge Houses rappers in the '90s, detailing drug runs to the Poconos ("U Phucc'ed Up"), female knife fights ("Hood Crazy") and a fondness for damaged strippers ("Stretch Marks and Cigarette Burns").

The terrain could easily grow tiresome, but Poet has an ideal foil in Year Round label head DJ Premier, who handles production on all but two of the disc's 15 songs. While the erstwhile Gang Starr beat maker has lost steam since his '90s heyday, he brings some of his strongest tracks in years to Tha Blaqprint. The best of these, like the Akon-sampling "Ain't Nothing Changed," imbue Poet with a liveliness that his old foes have rarely mustered in recent years. He still sounds mean on these, but definitely not bitter.

Blaq Poet plays S.O.B.'s Tue 30.

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Tha Blaqprint (Year Round/Fat Beats)