Phat Kat

Carte Blanche

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With Detroit hip-hop getting somewhat of a resurgence in 2007 (the never-ending tributes to Dilla, the signing of Guilty Simpson to Stones Throw), there was a more welcoming environment than what previously existed into which Phat Kat could release his sophomore album, Carte Blanche. The rapper's certainly aware of this -- even takes some credit for it -- and clearly tries to encourage its continued development, too, because although he can be critical of his hometown, especially the radio stations and the lack of support they showed to local artists, he's also fiercely proud of his roots. He makes frequent shout-outs to the city and uses the talents of almost exclusively Detroit-area MCs to fill out his record, including Guilty Simpson, Black Milk, Elzhi and T3 from Slum Village, and battle rapper Loe Logic. Production-wise, the album follows in the style that Dilla (who did five tracks) had laid out and that others, like Young RJ and Black Milk, have followed, the kind of sparse, snare-heavy beat with darkly quirky string and keyboard loops and sped-up soul samples, repetitive but not predictable, gritty but still smooth. Recent G-Unit signee Nick Speed also adds his own, somewhat fuller and more lush touch to two songs, the brag-filled success story "Vessels" ("While you still in titty bars plotting playing a trick/I'm in Alaska eating snowcrabs with my Eskimo bitch") and "Nightmare," both of which help to diversify the sound of the album while still making sure the confident "fuck you" Ronnie Cash throws out to everyone who's ever doubted him is omnipresent. This isn't ornamental or pretentious rap, it's straightforward and hard-hitting and real, aggressive and reflective, not quite gangsta but not quite backpacker, either. And Phat Kat is convincing in whichever approach he takes, be it in "Lovely," about his continent-crossing sexual exploits, in "Hard Enuff" or "Danger," about his skills, both lyrical and general ("Phony niggas need to stop rapping and drive a cab/Or be a garbage man, we need people to take out the trash"), or in "Survival Kits," in which he lists ten rules that aspiring rappers should follow (including number three, "Never chose a silly bird over money," and number four, "It's unprofessional when you're drunk, forgetting your flow") because each represents a different side of himself. His delivery is consistent, his rhymes are clever, and Carte Blanche is yet another excellent addition to the growing collection of Detroit hip-hop.

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