Balance 

Balance Presents Golden State Warriorz: Volume One

The East Bay's mixtape king is looking to make a comeback with Golden State Warriorz: Volume One (which suggests a spate of Golden State Warriorz to come). This compilation features new, original material by several promising Bay Area rappers, and a few who've had their day. Though the whole idea of mixtapes has become slightly anachronistic, this one retains the qualities of West Coast hip-hop (the funky, club-oriented hooks and robust vocal deliveries, which make every line sound like a tongue-lashing) but incorporates such innovations as Autotune software. Thus, despite the familiar nature of the material (party jams, salacious ballads, songs about the hustle), Golden State shows that Bay Area rappers are keeping apace with the times.

While the lyrics are nothing to write home about, the production on this album really slaps. The compilation's best song, by far, is "Eyes Wide Shut," which has a noir-ish, melodic beat that departs from the stylistic template of West Coast hip-hop. Produced by Erk tha Jerk, it combines a minor-chord guitar line with woodblock percussion sounds, which call to mind some creature of the jungle.

The other tracks are catchy as well. "Step Up" makes good use of an old Masters of Illusion sample, and Smitty Grands has a strong delivery on the Traxamillion-produced joint "Ghetto Superstar" (though he closely resembles New York rapper Swizz Beatz). "I Can Give It to Ya" is a nice little yarn about male virility. It's a little sloppily executed, since Balance and G-Stack both use recycled material. (Who knows how many skulls I'll crack if I have to hear about some girl being "a lady in the sheets but a freak in the bed" one more time).

Overall, it's a well-conceived album, and there's at least one laugh-out-loud moment when Balance says, on the come-hither track "Say My Name," Sheesh, I'm such a fuckin' beast. (Ayinde)

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