Just as they'd done a decade earlier with West Coast gangsta rap, the major labels funneled millions of dollars into the early-2000s Dirty South boom, catapulting previously unknown artists like Petey Pablo to overnight-superstar status. Like Ludacris and Nelly, Pablo had a major label (Jive) with enough clout to guarantee national exposure and a lead single with a great video ("Raise Up") to drive album sales. And, like what happened with Ludacris and Nelly -- and many others -- Jive proved that they could manufacture a multi-platinum rap superstar overnight with its industry clout. But, as disheartening as the industry politics may be, particularly to all the myriad other Dirty South rappers with no chance at similar success, you can't slight Pablo -- he proves himself worthy of big-league success on his debut album, Diary of a Sinner. First of all, and most obviously, there's the gigantic lead single, "Raise Up." Jive went out of its way to hook up Pablo with Timbaland for a few songs, and the results are surely worth the hefty tab. Sure, "I" and "I Told Y'All" are album highlights, but it's "Raise Up" that once again showcases precisely why Timbaland is the best of the best. In addition to the trademark shuffling, bass-heavy rhythm and the catchy, singalong hook, Timbaland throws in some swirling guitar and violin sounds for a frenzied feeling that makes "Raise Up" one of the rowdiest Dirty South anthems of the decade. The remainder of the album isn't nearly as riveting as "Raise Up," but it's still worth listening to. Pablo shows that he's something of a Southern DMX -- a gruff, thuggish man among boys who is thoughtful and lyrical as well as spiritual and moral. Plus, though he's not afraid to boast, he never raps about money, cars, women, drugs, or anything remotely associated with "ballin'." It's this emphasis on the inner self rather than materialism that makes Pablo so refreshing. And it doesn't hurt that he handles all the rhymes on his album. So, even if many will be disappointed to find that nothing else on Diary of a Sinner comes close to "Raise Up," it's still one of the better Dirty South albums of the early 2000s, and surely one of the more sincere efforts.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier