I learned something new today: C-Bo was actually born in Waco, Texas. To me he’s been a Cali rapper dating back to my high school days, and let’s be real he still is. I’m not sure at what point in his young life his family moved to California, but even his unofficial bio on Wikipedia says he was in and out of jails in Cali from his teenage years onward. The only reason I even thought to look into this is because the name of today’s album for review is “Cali Connection.” He might have started life somewhere else, but Killer Cali is the place that made him and tried to break him. No matter how many times C-Bo has been locked up he’s always bounced right back into the rap game without missing a step.
The “Connection” here is C-Bo reaching out to other players in the game, stretching all the way from California to Tennessee by linking up with Young Buck. The album was released by both Black Market and Cashville Records, and Buck is a contributor and not just a promoter. You can hear him on the hook of “Gun Shots” and “Dedicated Hustler” plus spitting bars on “Calling My Name.” Given the hard nosed nature of their individual styles they’re a perfect match despite being from almost opposite sides of the country. Most of the production is ably handled by Mike Mosley but he gets a break on “Calling My Name” for Soundsmith Productions to provide a Buck type beat.
From where I stand C-Bo is such a legend in rap that he doesn’t need to remind us of his credentials, but he still points out he was “rocking with ‘Pac” on the track. There’s already plenty of evidence of that — just watch the “California Love” video or listen to “Tradin War Stories” — so there’s no need to prove it. Nevertheless if you needed any more proof of what a certified G he was in Tupac Shakur’s eyes there’s a song with the Outlawz on here called “Can’t Break Me.”
The only attempt at a music video off this project was “Everyday” featuring T-Nutty, and it definitely wasn’t made for mainstream accessibility. It’s uncensored, the pianos and the bass pound the speakers, and everybody is wearing their blues and “C walking in the parking lot.” Crossover? Hell naw. More like cross C-Bo and get crossed out. His long rap sheet is another reason C-Bo doesn’t need to prove anything to anybody, but when he and his friends talk about “wannabe gangstas” I think it’s pretty clear he doesn’t care if you can’t hang with his gang.
It’s a fine like to walk though and I’m not talking about blocks, turf or sets. Going back to that unofficial bio of his, Shawn Thomas has “spent nearly half of his life in and out of incarceration.” It’s hard to promote your career properly when you’re behind bars, especially in Cali where they have strict laws about making bank off being locked down, and if you don’t know about it just ask X-Raided. While it doesn’t appear C-Bo ever recorded albums over the day phone or a smuggled in DAT, what good is it to hit the studio and finish a project only to not be able to tour, promote it, or give interviews about it? I don’t doubt Mr. Thomas or his credentials and never have, but it’s hard to think he couldn’t have been a bigger star without all that time in the pen.
And let’s be real about it too — the law had it out for C-Bo since day one. Whatever felonies he committed are entirely on him, but violating someone’s parole because he made an explicit rap album is salty as fuck. After more than 30 years of riding with C-Bo I know who and what he is and so does the penal system, and 2012’s “Cali Connection” is not at all out of character — not even the big connects on it. Homie he’s always been well connected and highly respected. He doesn’t need to tell us that he is — he just is.