Brooke Valentine :: Chain Letter :: Virgin Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

If crossover R&B hip-hop singers came in flavors of the month, then Brooke Valentine is the latest chocolate delight. Her album doesn't even drop for a couple of weeks, but she's already got a buzz on the charts with the Lil Jon produced "Girlfight" featuring Big Boi. They are not the only ones rapping though - Valentine herself seems to favor a style that's part Pink and part Nelly when delivering her provacative lyrics:

"There she go, talkin her mess
All around town, makin me stretch
I need to get this off my chest
And if her friend want some then she'll be next
It really ain't that complicated
Y'all walk around lookin all frustrated
On some type, come on let's make it
Yeah you're actin real hard but I know you're fakin"

There's no question Brooke Valentine's "Chain Letter" aims to bring rap fans into her world. "Long as You Come Home" is a pleasant trip down memory lane for anybody who dug the vibe of Camp Lo's "Luchini (This is It)" - in fact I'd be shocked if they aren't invited to do a remix. "Blah Blah Blah" features the late great Ol' Dirty Bastard in his "Dirt McGirt" persona and will undoubtedly be a must have to all of his fans. Brooke's sporting tons of attitude even when there aren't rap stars on her songs, naming herself the leader of a new generation of "Ghetto Superstarz" who are quick to say "I Want You Dead" for crossing their path; yet she also has a tender side that begs for answers to questions like "Tell Me Why You Don't Love Me." When the answers aren't forthcoming Brooke is "Dying From a Broken Heart." It almost seems from listening to her album that the song titles tell the story.

If you're asking yourself how this non-rap album is relevant to, you're not the only one. Her publicist is very interested in having this site interview her, and the label was so anxious for us to check out an advance copy that they sent it overnight through a parcel service. She does have some hip-hop sass and attitude, and she does have some hip-hop guests on her album, even though I've never heard of Queenz Deliz or Kilo a/k/a JAX before (c'mon duke pick one rap handle or the other). Nevertheless since it was so important to them, I decided to put my best foot forward by listening to this album and giving you an honest assessment. Well if you're into the whole steelo of Alicia Keys and Beyonce, you'll be right at home with Brooke Valentine. If you heard Lil Jon and Big Boi on "Girlfight" and thought it would be a hardcore hip-hop album, this review should be evidence enough that it's not. While the R&B swing isn't really my thing most of the time, I'll cautiously give Brooke Valentine a thumbs up. I don't think she's worlds better than any other new R&B singer who's come along since I first heard Monica, but given how hard her people are hustling her album and how much she wants to appeal to a crossover audience, she'll probably do aight. Understand that the lyric rating below is only for the portions of her album I consider to directly be rap and in no way reflect whether or not HER lyrics are good for R&B, but they're certainly not overly sappy or laden with tired sugary sentimentalism that would have turned me off long before this review was finished. Bottom line - Brooke's "Chain Letter" is worth at least spin or two.

Music Vibes: 6.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6.5 of 10

Originally posted: March 1, 2005