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As much rap as Profile was putting out in the early 1990s, some worthwhile rap CDs were bound to fall between the cracks. That's what happened with Clever, a generally decent and occasionally excellent CD by the obscure hip-hop duo BKA. Two things make this album stand out: Curtiss Clark's production and the intelligent, thoughtful nature of some of BKA's more socio-political lyrics. When Clever came out in 1991, a lot of rappers were relying heavily on sampling -- especially on the East Coast. But Clark wasn't content to simply combine a drum machine with samples of James Brown or the Average White Band. Instead, he emphasizes melodic keyboards and gives the material a lot of harmonic appeal. Some of BKA's lyrics are routine boasting fare, but when the duo gets socio-political, its raps can be compelling. "Stay Free," "Take Your Time" and "Kick the Peace" offer an uplifting, Earth, Wind and Fire-ish message -- BKA doesn't hesitate to address issues like racism, drugs, urban violence and overcrowding in prisons, but its overall outlook is positive. Like EWF, BKA preaches clean living, belief in God, hard work and education. Some might argue that BKA was too positive for its own good -- that the hip-hop audience found Clever to be overly preachy -- but at least BKA was preaching a message that deserved to be heard. This is an album that warranted much more attention than it received.

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