There’s no Plan B if this fails. As sleek rap product, this debut by [a]Puff Daddy[/a]’s new lackey [a]Black Rob[/a] has all the right moves. Take ‘Spanish Fly’ – it features Jennifer Lopez singing a chorus based on Madonna‘s ‘La Isla Bonita’. It must’ve been quite a session [I]chez [/I]Combs that gave birth to [I]that [/I]revolutionary idea.
It’s hard not to feel desperately cynical about a project that’s been doused in so many dollars, that’s associated with hip-hop’s own Malcolm McLaren, that contains guest spots by so many of rap’s chancers (Puffy, Mase, Lopez, Lil’ Kim). It can deafen you to the fact that some of this 72-minute slog of an album is actually pretty riveting. ‘BR’ is Wu-lite, but it rocks a sinister string quartet vibe and sparse beats, and ends up exuding a certain low-key grace. ‘Rise Up’ and ‘Whoa!’, meanwhile, are typical in their Bad Boy design, all petulant drum loops and off-balance hooks shackled to woozy, baroque samples.
But such tracks only stand out because the rest of the album is a tedious trawl through lazy breaks and hoary rhymes. As a hip-hop life story, it’s hardly the most outrageous personal testament we’ve ever heard. But then, [a]Black Rob[/a] is out to sell, not surprise, and with Puffy loitering in the background you just know that units shifted is going to be more important than feet moved. [a]Black Rob[/a], then: he’s doing very well in the US, you know.