Stimuli :: Follow My Lead Vol. 2 :: Underworld Music
as reviewed by Dan Mennella

The pedigree is there—Stimuli's older brother is the legendary Lord Digga. The credentials are there—a spot in The Source's career-berthing Unsigned Hype column. The lyrical skills are most definitely there. What Stimuli's latest mixtape leaves to be desired is a full-length LP with a plan and a focus.

This street-level mixtape is just that—perhaps the equivalent of AAA ballplayer who has paid his dues and is obviously ready for a steady stint as a major-leaguer. Though Stimuli may not personify the blue-chip, can't-miss prospect right out of high school, he's also surprisingly mature and seasoned for an unsigned MC.

Stimuli consistently showcases an acrobatic flow, where he speeds up over the heavy-hearted "Sun Don't Shine" and slows down over the smoothed-out "Break It Down." His utilizes witty similes and sprinkles in a well-placed punch line here or there for good measure. A reoccurring problem, however, is that the beats don't quite seem to match the exuberance of Stimuli (which isn't overly surprising being that this is just a mixtape), but it can detract from Stimuli at times when it becomes overly apparent that the best beats are instrumentals versions of old beats from producers like Just Blaze and Bink. And, many of the beats are simply boring or pedestrian by today's over-the-top standards. Also alarming at times is Stimuli's penchant for reciting or slightly tweaking old lines from some of his favorite MC's like Jay-Z or Nas, and putting his own touch on them or riding that flow out for the rest of the track (a practice sure to raise the classic "biting vs. homage" debate). Luckily though, he can be downright nasty on the microphone, sometimes approaching jaw-dropping speeds—though wisely avoiding the always-annoying too-fast-to-understand trap.

One of the purposes of the mixtape is to get heads open to an up-and-comer, or at least place his name in our memories as a dude to check for in the future. Stimuli has done so with this mixtape. His vocal identity has obviously been well-shaped, but what he needs now is a sonic identity. We'll never know what a .300 hitter in the minors can do in the majors if he doesn't get his chance.

Music Vibes: 5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6 of 10

Originally posted: August 31, 2004