In the interest of full disclosure (something Bernie Madoff never gave his investors) the artist called Ric Atari on “Songs in the Key of Autotune” is actually a good friend of mine; a music producer from Atlanta known as The Cancer who hosts the popular internet radio show Killer Mike and Ms. Williams among others, that bias is not hard to come by. It’s the same bias one has after hearing enough songs produced by the likes of Alchemist and 9th Wonder – you start to expect over time that good tracks for them are just par for the course.

Looking to step out from behind the boards and take the spotlight a little more, The Cancer adopted the guise of Ric Atari – a suave and sophisticated Southern baller who occasionally likes to croon in Autotune. He’s far from the first rapper or producer to have multiple musical personas – Lord knows Kool Keith has more than there are flavors in Dr. Pepper. In fact he’s not even the first rapper slash producer to step out with an Autotune croon album – Kanye West did it on “808’s & Heartbeak” and T-Pain has been bringing us a three ring circus of vocal modulation for years. As such there’s nothing ostensibly groundbreaking at first glance on “Songs in the Key of Autotune,” as anything you can find here has been done elsewhere, but Ric Atari’s swag is a little more sophisticated than some of the others you’ve heard – ya heard? Check out “R.P.S.” featuring Grease for example, as Atari takes a break from crooning to spit hard:

“Maybe it’s the pop star life I’m livin
Makes these ladies on me so giving
Makes it so hard for a wife and children
For one million want me to get ’em, get ’em, get ’em
Second thought is to stay pimpin
It makes these women lose they mind
And if you didn’t know I’m Atari baby
And maybe, baby, you could be mine
And when I come in panties come – DOWN
I talk that shit they like that – SOUND
Even the classiest must bring it proper
turn into a beast when the lights go – DOWN
We in between the sheets doin UFC moves
It’s wrestling, boxing, round for round
It’s gonna be a KO, she won’t say no
She love the way the boy Atari get down”

I don’t say that Ric Atari reminds me of Ludacris here lightly, especially given I’ve already revealed a personal bias in the opening paragraph, but there’s really no more suitable comparison. The mixture of laid back flow, humorous attitude and Southern charm Atari displays is pure Atlanta G-A all the way. It’s more impressive when you consider Atari did the beat too, a mixture of organically smooth synth chords, electronic clave sounds and drums crispy enough to make you crave fried chicken. Atari doesn’t produce every single track on “Songs in the Key of Autotune” but the ones he does are among the best, including the Prince funkdafied stylings of “Better Alone” and the quiet storm groove found on “Be Wit U.” True to the mixtape style distribution of “Songs in the Key of Autotune” though, some of the songs found here aren’t original beats at ALL – they’re just some fly shit to flow over. Credit Ric Atari for having the good taste to freak Lauryn Hill for “Sweetest Thang on Candler Rd.” in a fly way, with Astan Martin stepping in to change up her verses. Kanye West also makes a good backdrop for “Loverboy, Lovergirl” with Ms. Williams. When you’ve got to borrow, borrow something good.

Ultimately “Songs in the Key of Autotune” is a nice mellow summer joint you’ll want to have on a CD for cruising around with the top down, or at the very least ripped to your iPod so that you can plug it into your car’s auxillary port. It would be an unfair exaggeration to say it is the greatest thing since sliced bread though – I don’t think you’d believe me if I did and I wouldn’t believe myself. On the other hand Jay-Z may have announced the “Death of Autotune” a little too soon. Ric Atari proves there’s still a little life in it provided you can chop it up with good guest producers and rappers and not croon the WHOLE time – just enough to mack to the ladies a little bit. Whether or not The Cancer continues to perform under the Ric Atari persona or not, on this introductory mixtape I can safely say I’m not hating on the gimmick at all. You can find the album HERE or check for it through The Aspen Agency.