Guilty Simpson 

Ode to the Ghetto

With a name like Guilty Simpson, Stonesthrow's hot rapper du jour seems unintentionally shticky — despite assurances that his stage moniker derives from his government name, Byron Simpson. And judging from the tracks on his debut, Ode to the Ghetto, this guy generally goes with what's tried and true. He's not above using pop culture references or spitting out clichés. Fittingly, Ode to the Ghetto kicks off with "American Dream," a fairly predictable homage to the "American" values of grit and go-it-alone entrepreneurism: And falling for the tricks while the man deceives ya, until the day you finally bite the hand that beat ya, he raps.

Obviously, subtlety isn't this guy's forte. Nonetheless, he succeeded as a battle rapper in Detroit and found favor with legendary indie producers J Dilla, Madlib, and Oh No, who turned Guilty's first effort into a clever blend of minimalist drum fills, doo-wop vocal samples, and futuristic bleeps. Why they picked him probably has to do with his voice (the scruffy, matter-of-fact drawl); his timely diction (he throws in just enough n-words and b-words to sound credible); and his politics (left of center and generally anti-status quo, though he still embraces "the hustle"). All told, Ode is a commercially viable album, and one that will definitely pass muster with the average indie head. But if Simpson wants to take on the mantle of his idols Kool G Rap and Scarface, he'll have to step up his game. (Stonesthrow)


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