Chris Lowe hails from that tradition of rap artists whose own names are more than sufficient for their rap nom de plume - artists like Keith Murray, Erick Sermon, and Missy Elliott among others. There's no denying that names like Ice Cube imply a cold hard persona, or that Big Daddy Kane paint the picture of a smooth pimp. While most MC's fit their handles this well, many could be just as well served by saying, "I was born this way, I am who I am, you dig it or you don't." Not surprisingly, MC's who rap under their own name have incredible self-confidence and display that in their charisma and mic control. Their name along makes an impact, with or without a rap handle.
While he first garnered attention in the late 1990's for fat singles like "Uncut Action," the full length Chris Lowe album has been a long time coming. In 2004, "The Black Life" has finally arrived, along with the expectations that Lowe will keep it as real as his name. The self-produced Lowe (with able assistance on co-production from Dooley-O) does not dissapoint. While the "I'm an original and these other rappers are all frauds" song has become a cliche in underground rap, Lowe still puts a new spin on it with "Funny Fake Snakes." Vocally he's reminiscent of a young William Paul Mitchell from his "Breaking Atoms" days, and judging by the engaging bassline he took notes from Extra P's production style as well. Peep the linguistics:
"This here funk was bred from the illest hip-hop head
You shell-shocked, watch the bells rock
Trust me, the illest of the million dollar sellers won't hurt me
Now that's most def and most certainly
So mi amigos with the million dollar egos
Frontin, played out, that shit corny like Cheetos
Act, straight up black, no fake skin makes you thick thin
This nigga full blooded, nuttin mixed in"
Guest come aplenty on "The Black Life" and are not waisted in any of their appearances. PMD sounds as good as he has in years on "Buckwhylin'." Sadat X and Dinco D join Chris Lowe for the aptly named "Treacherous 3." The legendary DJ Cash Money drops in for "Chris Cosby vs. Cash Money" and perhaps most surprisingly of all, Bad Boy Records crooner Carl Thomas turns in an excellent performance on "Rewind the Time." Again it's hard to overlook the fact "reminiscing" rap songs have become a cliche of hip-hop as well, but the song's deliciously smooth production and Lowe's low-key yet highly engaging delivery make it transcend the ordinary. In his own unique style, Lowe raps about the girl that he loved before:
"See I've been through mad ladies, from back in the 80's
To 20-oh-three, still pimpin, that's just me
But sometimes, I catch that y'all don't really even know
Feelin like a pimp when he used to go hoe
Hided and divided, this feelin ain't a lie
Like Jay, I guess I really gotta make the song cry
And then get to steppin, replace what I left in
Forward on, y'all know I got this rep that I'm protectin
But thoughts pop up, for a second I get stuck
In a daze I'm amazed at the way we used to...
See I got a hundred girls but they don't mean shit to me
Who woulda known you was the one that would get to me?"
When Chris Lowe dubs a song "Never Heard it Like This Before" he's not exaggerating in the least. Lowe is refreshingly down to Earth, capable of flipping both clever lines but is also self-effacing and humble in his approach to narrating beats. He's one of the rare breed of hip-hop artists who are not only as good as they say they are, but BETTER than they think they are. While the skillful Lowe warns fans "listen up, cause you might not ever hear me again" he couldn't be more wrong. With the intelligently written and produced album "The Black Life" Lowe has guaranteed that his is another name that can be added to the list of "good as is with no gimmicks." He's quintessentially REAL.
Music Vibes: 8.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8.5 of 10
Originally posted: June 29, 2004