Lil Rob

Twelve Eighteen, Pt. 1

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Restless and persistent, Lil Rob inched his career forward year after year, album after album, and Twelve Eighteen, Pt. 1 reflects his steady growth. It's a thoroughly contemporary rap album, tied very closely to the sounds of 2005, not unlike his past albums reflected their own time frame. So while Rob may have begun his career in the late '90s as a hardcore rapper -- a Chicano thug who fit in well with the Low Profile crowd and its gangsta style -- here in 2005 he's a commercially minded yet thoroughly street-savvy rapper who's content to sit back at times and let his producers run the show. In other words, he sounds kind of like 50 Cent, albeit not nearly as polished and not really that threatening. Like 50, Rob is graced with standout productions that more often than not eclipse him on the hooks, which is perfectly fine because there are some great hooks here courtesy of producers Fingazz and Moox. And also like 50, Rob mixes look-how-far-I've-come raps of barrio pride with good-time raps about pleasure, particularly of a sexual nature (though with far fewer drug references than in the past). "Summer Nights," the album's lead single, is a little different, as it mixes both approaches. It's a feel-good song, for sure -- a Chicano "Summertime" à la Will Smith -- but it also boasts a strong undercurrent of self-satisfaction that radiates Latino pride. And too, it boasts a great production by Fingazz that any rapper would love to call his own. Twelve Eighteen, Pt. 1 might be Rob's best album yet, and if not, it's certainly his most accessible. However, it's still held back a bit by Rob himself. Frankly, his raps aren't always liquid smooth. His lyrics are thoughtful and his songwriting showcases his veteran status, but his flow can be clumsy at times. It's easy to look past this, though, because there's so much else to appreciate here, especially if you're a longtime fan of Rob or if you're into Chicano rap. Twelve Eighteen, Pt. 1 is another positive step forward for Rob, overall.

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