Guerilla Black is back! Who knew!? In 2004 the big-bellied emcee sold 300,000+ units of his Virgin Records debut album "Guerilla City". The success of the almost rode almost entirely on the success of the Jamaican-flavored single entitled "Compton" which featured reggae veteran Beenie Man. Moreover, the obvious comparisons to the late Notorious BIG were immediately drawn, but the unbalanced disc did not hold up to any of the material Mr. Christopher Wallace ever released. Despite the look and voice possessed by Guerilla the hardcore rap fans just saw him as a counterfeit. With the sophomore release "God Bless The Child" the big guy gets that rare chance to seek the respect he rightfully deserves.
In 2007 Guerilla Black finds himself on an off-shoot label of Universal called Street Money Entertainment. Street Money seems to be a more comfortable place for him to be as his debut featured an overabundance of 'radio-friendly' tracks that weren't really friendly in any way. With "God Bless The Child" Guerilla drops the overpriced beats of Jazze Pha for a more straight-forward dark West Coast LP. The bulk of the production is handled by label mates Big Hollis and Preach who sonically bring Carlos "Six July" Broady (a producer often used by Biggie) type of beats--the comparisons to the legend continue.
The album kicks off with an introduction entitled "Genesis". This is extremely fitting because Guerilla Black talks about the birth of his child, religion, but also it brings a rebirth for him as an emcee--a fresh beginning. The following track continues the personal journey that this album reveals itself to be with the title track "Thank You (God Bless The Child)" which plays out like a rapper's prayer with its storytelling and powerfully introspective lyrics:
"So much pain in this world makes you wonder if there's a God, man
It's hard being a black American
When my wife died I was like God damn!
At that point me and God we was at odds then
I know I ain't the best at following God's plan
Besides all that I've been blessed by God's hand
'Specially when God gave me my little man
The Lord giveth and taketh away
But when he taketh away he giveth in gain
Yea he took me up from cookin' up base
To hookin' me up and puttin' me on stages
Before I could look up I was being booked in Jamaica
What got me shook up I'm being looked at major
It's a big difference with homies and friends
The same difference between the phony and Jim
The same difference between bologna and ham
A homey will fuck your bitch a friend will lone you a hand
My Father wasn't there he was sitting up in the can
Yea job is in the city yea that's a shitty plan
Momma she was busy out there meeting up with the ends
Step hop stepped up took my Daddy's place
I'm fresh up on the block with my Daddy's face
Chest sticking out I'm going to have my way
Slap box with little niggas until my hands are straight
Now I'm a little older hair up on my nuts
Hair up on my shoulder and I ain't scared of nuttin'
Damn what scares me the most
I'm 15 tellin' my brother don't be scared to smoke
15 tellin' my brother don't be scared of dope
He 13 tellin' me 'Bro I ain't scared to go'
Damn I seen them smokers they fuckin' with me man
I ain't doing nothin' tonight I see those fuckers in the van"
It's hard being a black American
Guerilla continues to tell the story and comes to some kind of resolution by the end of the track but those details can be saved for those that cop it. Even with his relaxed flow he does something he failed to do on his first album and that is exude personality. In fact this is one of the most telling albums since Royce Da 5'9's "Death Is Certain" album.
"Thank You (God Bless The Child)" adopts the skills of R&B songstress Janet' (not Jackson) to create a nice hook and the feeling of a complete song and he continues this with the following track "The Streets" which features Chris Jones. When Guerilla does this on the album he finds great success in the tradition of great Rap/R&B collabos.
The lead single for "God Bless The Child" is "Whatever". It may not do a lot to shed the image of Guerilla Black being a faux-Biggie. His flow sounds more like Notorious on this more than any other. Nonetheless it is an obvious choice to get spins on the airway as the Neff-U (Ne-Yo, Jay-Z and Clyde Carlson) produced beat sounds like Dr. Dre's "Westside Story" beat on another West Coast emcee's successful debut. The song also features more quotable lines and an injection of wit that some of the other tracks do not with lines like "When the revolution start like Che Guevara/ When I start the movement call me Che Guerilla". The only thing that holds the track back is the insertion of a vocal sample saying "Whatever" in an indifferent way that simply gets repetitive.
The only misfires Guerilla Black has on the disc are the lighter tracks that do not fit the overall mood of the album. "She Wanna Baller", besides being a grammatical nightmare of a title, is another song about gold diggers but it seems to embrace that woman's choice much more than Kanye's hit. Other party tracks like "Put Yo Hands Up" and "Pour Me A Drank" have pretty knockin' beats and serve their purpose, yet they are less welcome than the darker joints. The only other negative aspect of the album is its relative short length at only 12 tracks, two of which are the obligatory introduction and conclusion.
Ultimately "God Bless The Child" by Guerilla Black is a huge success for the young emcee. After random appearances on countless mix tapes since his artistically disappointing debut Guerilla has finally established himself as a West Coast emcee to be reckoned with. More important perhaps is the fact that he creates his own image and is not in Biggie's large shadow anymore. Questions about whether he has already done too much to alienate his fans that believed in him from the get go will be answered based on sales figures on this follow-up, but if this review should do one thing, it should convince you that the man that was once considered an imposter deserves a second chance thanks to good in-house production and more focus to create a comprehensive disc.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10
Originally posted: September 18, 2007