For fans who knew Black Sheep long before Kia hijacked “The Choice is Yours” for a commercial, the announcement of a new Black Sheep album was met with excitement. Then there was some concern. After all, the hip-hop landscape is littered with veteran MCs and groups whose “comeback” bids are met with absolute silence (which, I imagine, is the worst result an artist can endure). The list of successful artists who have spent close to 20 years in the game is short, but with From the Black Pool of Genius, Dres (no longer with Mr. Lawnge) hopes to add Black Sheep to that esteemed list.
With an assist from Bronx veteran Showbiz, Dres sets things off perfectly with the mellow “Splash”, which showcases the unique voice and superb flow of D-R-E-S. From there, it’s off the races as the Golden Era MC definitely finds his groove. While “Forever Luvlee” finds Dres covering familiar ground (spoofing the materialistic pursuits of many
of today’s MCs), the combination of the funky beat, courtesy of Urban Soul Music Group, and Dres’ personality make the track a winner. And then there are the lyrics (It might seem a shame I own all these objects/And still live in the projects) – which Dres has for days.
Formerly the most hedonistic member of the Native Tongues family, Dres shows off his veteran status, and maturity, on the Beanone produced “Reason to Pray”. And the results are magnificent: “We all fall short/But understanding who you are makes you master of all courts/Now I’ve come to understand that this mic is my gift/And since it is what it is,
guess I exist to uplift.”
Speaking of the Native Tongues, Dres doesn’t forget his crew – as they unite on the absolute banger, “Birds of a Feather”. Q-Tip, Dave and Mike G, representing A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and The Jungle Brothers, respectively, sound as fresh on this track as they did in the early- to mid-’90s. Hip-hop collaborations so often fail to live up to the hype; “Birds of a Feather” is the exact opposite. It exceeds expectations. In fact, Dres’ guest collaborators all bring out the best from the Black Sheep. Rhymefest trades political lines with Dres on “Power to the Pih-Poh;” Jean Grae stops by to, as the title suggests, “Party Tonight”; lyrical beast AZ absolutely destroys “Winner” (as does Dres); and one-half of The Beatnuts, Psycho Les, provides the track and his usual charm to “Important Fact”.
But make no mistake, this is still Dres’ show. On “Born to Che”, the Black Sheep shows that he’s still not afraid to say exactly what he feels – even if it’s not politically correct. P. Locke’s track is highlighted by a pounding drum and a xylophone, but it’s Dres’ lyrics that steal the show: “High Definition picture nothing is clear/And though I try to stand for something it’s like nothing is clear.”
Overall, From the Black Pool of Genius will most certainly appeal to Dres’ fans. He hasn’t lost a step lyrically and still possesses one of the most unique voices in the industry – and that’s why this “comeback” bid will not meet the same fate as so many before him. Unfortunately, the fact that the album plays to the tastes of hip-hop heads
from the Golden Era will also prevent it from reaching many of the younger heads. And that is truly a shame.
3.5 out of 5