Slaine

A World with No Skies

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Never let it be said that George Carroll, Jr., aka Slaine, is afraid of provocative album titles. In the mid-2000s, the Boston native attracted some regional attention in the East Coast hip-hop underground with his self-released mixtapes The White Man Is the Devil, Vol. 1 and The White Man Is the Devil, Vol. 2: Citizen Caine. But those titles were obviously ironic, because Slaine himself is white (Irish-American, to be specific), and the handful of people who took offense were mostly Five Percenter and New Black Panther types who picked up on the irony and felt that a white rapper was making fun of their black separatist ideology (besides, the "white man" he was actually referring to was cocaine -- not a race of people). However, Slaine's mixtapes were quite underground, and it wasn't until he rapped with Special Teamz and, in 2009, La Coka Nostra that he started receiving any significant attention on a national level. The less provocatively titled A World with No Skies is Slaine's first full-length solo album since joining forces with La Coka Nostra; it is also a demonstration of the fact that Slaine doesn't need shock value or gimmicks to maintain one's attention. He is a talented, skillful MC, if a less-than-groundbreaking one, and it is evident that substance is as important to him as style. Slaine doesn't inundate listeners with a bunch of hedonistic, cartoonishly decadent lyrics about "getting crunk in the club" or how much hard liquor a groupie in daisy dukes or booty shorts consumed before she stumbled onto the dancefloor; instead, he keeps it street (although not gangsta) and spends most of this 2010 effort rapping about either urban crime, poverty, and violence, or his battles with his emotional demons. A World with No Skies thrives on social commentary as well as painfully honest introspection; like a long list of rappers ranging from Eminem to the late 2Pac Shakur, Slaine isn't afraid to look in the mirror and describe his demons in elaborate detail. Again, Slaine's examination of urban decay and urban mayhem is hardly groundbreaking for hip-hop; this 63-minute CD comes no less than 28 years after Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five's "The Message" -- and one of the tunes briefly references that seminal 1982 classic. But the fact that A World with No Skies is derivative doesn't mean that it isn't engaging; this is a solid outing from the Irish-American MC.

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