Credentials are abundant for Sauce Money, one of the hardest working ghostwriters in hip-hop. Besides writing Puff Daddy’s number one song “I’ll Be Missing You” he reps for Roc-a-Fella on Jay-Z’s albums while making soundtrack raps for the likes of “Soul in the Hole” and “Streets is Watching.” Sauce is IN there all the way, “In Like Flint” even. Or is he?

Sauce shouldn’t have any trouble getting over and yet his debut album “Middle Finger U” fails to deliver the expected knockout. Weakened updates of collaborative Roc-a-Fella songs appear throughout, such as “Foundation 99” and “Face Off 2000”. (EDITOR’S NOTE: The former was cut from the album in place of “For My Hustlaz”.) Blatant crossover attempts with weak raps like “Do You See” with Puff Daddy leave the listener fiending for pure uncut dope like a junkie on HBO’s “The Corner.”

What strikes this reviewer as really sad irony is that the album’s best cuts are the old material like the title song (out as a twelve inch last summer) and “Pre-Game” with Jay-Z from the “Belly” soundtrack. Sure, Memphis Bleek is less than his usual annoying self on “What We Do” but he’s no Sauce Money; and on this album at least, Sauce Money is no Erick Sermon or Too $hort — two platinum rappers that Sauce seems to pin his lyrical ambitions on. Instead of using his gifts to spit brilliant raps, he comes up with nags like “since my WATCH was a GIFT, there’s no better TIME than the present” that come in last place. We’re talking DEAD last.

Bottom line? Sauce Money is still a good writer and in terms of flow an above-average rapper but the barbecue is sour and the Sauce could have used a little more brown sugar. Taking it back to the lab would be an understatement – Sauce and company need to take this one to the ICU, stat. Chances are good it’s gonna be DOA.

Sauce Money :: Middle Finger U