San Quinn 

I Give You My Word

Since gangsta rappers don't view mainstream success with the same distrust as their underground counterparts, heavy rotation on Clear Channel radio stations hasn't imperiled San Quinn's street cred -- if anything, he's getting more love in more 'hoods. His latest, I Give You My Word, is solid, as the artist sounds exactly like what he is: a classically trained gangsta rapper, groomed for success from the time he stacked tapes at age fourteen. The album's single, "Hardway," is a worthy club hit, even though Quinn sounds best on the lesser-known track "High Light," which stretches the genre with its funky, sample-driven hook.

Perhaps "High Light" is a good direction to pursue, because when the beats here are less exciting, Quinn's gangsta persona starts to wear on you. He makes a convincing outlaw, but otherwise, his emotional range is nil. This limitation is most apparent on "Butterfly," a cynical take on the R&B love songs of the '60s and '70s that follows on the heels of Keak da Sneak's coarser but more verbally inventive "I Feed My Bitch." Considering that kids don't have Al Green as a reference point anymore, maybe Quinn speaks for modern romance when he regales us with lines such as I'd hate to have to groom another broad/Shack and room with another broad/Introduce my momma to another broad." Go figure.

What "Butterfly" actually shows is that, while San Quinn makes first-rate junk-your-trunk numbers, he lacks the emotional complexity of Ice Cube, the Ghetto Boys, or Hunters Point's own Mak Diddy. Quinn is likable enough as a tough-talking gangsta-pimp, but he seems unable to step outside that role and allow his humanity to shine through. In the end, it's easy to believe that San Quinn has an interesting life, but it's hard to believe he'd be very intriguing in casual conversation.


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