Above the Law's second album had three things working against it. One: over two years had passed since their debut (unless you factor 1991's Vocally Pimpin' EP), which certainly left many with the impression that they were no longer. Two: they had to follow up a strong Dr. Dre-produced debut with in-house production. Three: it was nearly half an hour longer than the debut, leaving it wide open for filler issues. Despite these factors, the members of Above the Law proved with Black Mafia Life that they were more than a one-album wonder. They returned with a record that was both more laid-back and assured, yet the sound was tougher all the same. The tales spun by Cold 187um, KM.G, Big Hutch, and Go Mack are as unrelentingly grim as ever, yet this is -- if anything -- a party record, full of grooves and licks swiped from Bootsy Collins, the Fatback Band, and Curtis Mayfield. Cold 187um's slick sampling work -- almost as accomplished as Dre's on the debut -- combined with live instrumentation more than makes up for the fact that none of the thoroughly convincing MCs are lyrical masters. Lop off a few substandard moments, replace them with one or two big singles (admittedly, nothing here is as hot as the debut's "Untouchable"), and you'd have a West Coast classic.
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AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman