Guerilla Black :: Guerilla City :: Virgin Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

"I just wanna stay humble and patient
That's when stupid niggaz come at you with gay shit
'He look like Big, he sound like Big'
Yo I'm B-L-A-C-K, nigga ya dig?"

I hate to be the one to break it to you Black, but they're right. The first time I heard your song on XM 66, I wasn't quick enough to hit the save button to record his name. I got home and started asking questions, hitting up more peeps than Christian. "Yo, who's this new guy who sounds even more like Big than Shyne did?" Then I see you on TV and it's like "Whoa." Then I cop your album and on the back cover it's REALLY like "Whoa." Somebody call Black Rob. Hey Rob, whattup Black? I mean whattup WITH Black? Not you man, Guerilla Black. Is this guy from Bed-Stuy? Is he straight out of Crooklyn, better known as Brooklyn? What's his story?

Turns out you could ask all of the five boroughs, hell you could go as Far as Rockaway or Rock with Pete in Mount Vernon, but they couldn't tell you about the money Guerilla Black be earnin'. He's from Compton. What? Yeah I said it. There's an urban legend that everybody out there has a doppleganger, somebody who not only looks like you but walks and talks like you do too. Charles Tony Williamson may hail from the inner sanctums of Los Angeles, but you'd think he was christened Christopher Wallace. Actually that's kind of eerie - Charles Williamson, Christopher Wallace. The similarities are getting down to syllables. Still to hear Guerilla Black tell it, there's no if's and's or but's about it - he's straight outta Compton, born and raised. To prove the point he even named his lead single "Compton" and hired Beenie Man to chant the word in the hook. Peep Black's verbals:

"I'm +Strictly Business+, just like E-P-M-D
I'm B-L-A-C, K from the C-P-T
Were they dip them cigarettes in P-C-P
And them broads they believe in me
See I be, the Magnum totin
Keep my enemies on I-V, once I toast them
Just like my bag-els
Have them like Christians over they head smokin halos
Call me Plato, I philosophize
By the brick, then divide it up amongst my guys
Then I called Lionel, the prince of the vinyl
Slow up then charge the game like a wild rhino
I know, no one else can do it better
Is you stupid nigga? Get yo' shit together"

If you haven't heard the song (you must be living under a rock but) you might be wondering why Black is defending himself against accusations of being a Big rip-off. If he's not intentionally doing it though, the coincidences are unreal. Think to yourself about the way Biggie used to pronounce his O's. Echo the phrase "It's the N-O, T-O, R-I, O, U-S, you just, lay down, slow" in your head if necessary. Then peep the lyrics above again and picture Biggie saying the words - particularly bagels, halos, and Plato. If he only pronounced his lyrics the same way, nobody would take note. It's the staccato way he disperses his words. Try putting this phrase in your head from "Unbelievable": "And those that rushes my cluthes, get put on crutches; get smoked like dutches from the master." Got it? Read these lines from Guerilla Black and hear it with Biggie's breath control: "Then I called Lionel, the prince of the vinyl; slow up then charge the game like a wild rhino." Got it? Good. It's un-fucking-canny. Guerilla Black is Biggie from a parallel universe.

Now to be fair to Guerilla Black, he's neither the first nor will be the last rapper in existance to come off sounding like the late great Notorious one. After all, how many Tupac Shakur sound-alike and look-alike rappers have we had since his untimtely passing? Some of those are far more blatant than Charles Williamson. And even if it's an unintentional coincidence, it ends up being appealing to listen to. "You're the One" featuring Mario Winans could easily be mistaken for a Bad Boy song, except there's no P. Diddy whispering in the background. The pounding Rodney Jerkins and Rick Rude produced "Trixxx" will give you a straight up case of deja vu circa "Gimme the Loot" 1992, down to the slightly slippery slur in Black's voice. Jazze Pha seems to be on every album these days, but I can't be mad at his beats on "Guerilla Nasty." It's damn freaky to hear Black say "Je-sus, moments of lei-sure" right in the middle of the song though, because you expect to hear "the No-tor-ious just, please us" after it instead.

In fact after listening to almost 60 minutes of Guerilla Black, from songs like the darkly ominous "What We Gonna Do" featuring Nate Dogg to the old school throwback of "Say What" produced by Carlos Broady, I've concluded that it sure as hell is NOT a coincidence. Did the last name sound familiar? It should. Mr. '6 July' Broady is well known for his work on Biggie's seminal album "Ready to Die" and even attempted to recreate that magic for Royce Da 5'9" on "Death Is Certain." If you're not convinced he's Christopher Wallace reincarnate by the Ski produced "My First," this finale to his album will be the icing on the cake. The only problem is that while imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, the imitator is never greater than the original. Shyne suffered from this problem on his self-titled debut, but to his credit he's evolved as an artist (at least vocally) since then, although how he recorded and released an album on lockdown I'll never figure out.

Guerilla Black is about par for the course as a lyricist and MC - clever but not overly fresh, with good breath control and an appealing vocal tone. He has a good start at what might be a lengthy career, but if he's already tired of people comparing him to other MC's he needs to be pro-active about it instead of recording an entire CD as though Notorious B.I.G. was using him as a medium. Otherwise he needs to accept that whether he's from Compton or not, he's a dead ringer for Brooklyn's Finest, with or without Bad Boy behind this.

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

Originally posted: September 28, 2004