Gangstrez from Da Bay

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Some listeners might wonder if the Havoc & Prodeje who do their share of producing on Sh'killa's Gangstrez from Da Bay is the same duo who formed Mobb Deep in Queens in the early '90s, but in fact, they're two entirely different duos. Gary "Havoc" Calvin and Austin "Prodeje" Patterson -- the Havoc & Prodeje heard on this CD -- are an obscure gangsta rap duo from South Central L.A., while the Havoc & Prodigy that comprise Mobb Deep were key players in the Queens scene that also gave us Capone-N-Noreaga. Sh'killa, meanwhile, is easily recognizable as a West Coast MC, and her other guests on this album include such West Coast gangsta rappers as Spice 1 and Gripsta. The Dr. Dre/Snoop Doggy Dogg/Warren G school of L.A. gangsta rap is a major influence on this melodic, R&B-drenched effort, which isn't remarkable or innovative but has its share of catchy hooks and infectious beats. Sh'killa isn't one to emphasize flow or technique -- while artists like MC Lyte and Queen Latifah are interested in letting you know just how much technique they have, Sh'killa's style of rapping isn't nearly as complex. Much of Gangstrez favors the usual Dre/Snoop type of shock value, but the album takes a poignant turn with the 2Pac Shakur-ish "Ghetto Tears." Though not a gem, Gangstrez is a fairly entertaining, if derivative, footnote in '90s gangsta rap.

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