.Shawnna's debut album, 2004's Worth tha Weight, had been such a long time coming that you'd think the Chicago MC would've pretty much shot her load with it. The album did well, since it was set up as little more than a spin-off from Ludacris' Disturbing tha Peace camp. It peaked at number 22. Block Music, her second album, immediately follows "Gettin' Some," a highlight from the second Disturbing tha Peace album, and it improves upon Worth tha Weight in every regard. It's tougher, crazier, more sensitive, more insightful, and ultimately more Shawnna. While she affirms her Chicago roots throughout the album, she might as well be considered a fully naturalized Southern MC. The album's first several tracks do this in fine form. The opening "Can't Do It Like Me" destroys D4L's "Betcha Can't Do It Like Me" (but note the lack of snaps) and sets the tone for what follows. Over synths set to stun that alternately punch and drone, and beats that boom, Shawnna proves to be one of the fiercest and most flexible MCs around, whether she's associated with the South or the Midwest. She switches between personas both intimidating ("Block Music") and cute ("Damn"), and she operates equally effectively whether in double time or cruise control. Though these tracks feature Field Mob's Smoke, Pharrell, Lil Wayne, and 8 Ball & MJG, Shawnna remains the main attraction. The second half isn't short on highlights, either. On "Can't Break Me," featuring her father -- blues legend Buddy Guy -- she's on her best behavior, offering a strong if sobering anthem to her fellow single mothers: "My baby asked me why his daddy don't love him yet/I swear to God it's like a bullet going through my chest." And this is hardly the token track where she brings some serious grit; both "Chicago" and "In the Chi" blend geographic pride with deep introspection, and "Ghetto Fairy Tales" is as hard-edged as anything from her any of her fellow Windy City dwellers. With a surprising level of depth and a more complementary set of productions, Block Music makes Worth tha Weight -- a decent album in its own right -- seem like a clumsy warm-up. Ironically, the track featuring mentor Ludacris and Bobby V is without doubt the worst thing on it.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman