Prince Ali

Curb Side Service

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Though the aggressive, staccatoed flow rapper Prince Ali employs is more often found in the colder, darker climes of East Coast cities like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, the beats he uses are purely Californian. A member of the ever-growing crew/label Hiero Imperium, the Bay Area MC makes sure to shout out to his home throughout his full-length debut, Curb Side Service, sometimes directly, like in "California Cliffnotes" ("California finesse, women be feeling us/Like Ali says, we hit 'em with the syllabus," labelmate Pep Love spits), and through the guests he invites onboard (Planet Asia, A-Plus), but more often in what he chooses to rhyme over. Though the producers involved don't have much in terms of name recognition, they're all clearly inspired by the West Coast sound. The first half or so of the album is pure G-funk, with fat, smooth bass and synths leading the way ("Honor Code," for example, is straight out of 1993, and "Way of the Warrior" is silky enough to make Dr. Dre proud), while the second half switches rather suddenly into the bouncy, warm beats that the West Coast underground, and particularly the Hieroglyphics, are known for. It's a welcome change, for sure, as things begin to drag a bit after the umpteenth interpolation of "Let Me Ride," and Prince Ali is more than capable of mixing up his flow, brightening it and exploring different cadences, but it's also a little abrupt, and gives Curb Side Service a rushed and unprofessional feel, as if it was thrown together haphazardly and without much thought for track order or overall effect. This isn't to say that there aren't some great moments here -- the collaboration between Ali, Keith Murray, Planet Asia, and Casual on "The Majors," the great basslines in "Breach Birth" and "Same Struggle" -- but with 18 full songs (and 20 tracks total), there could've been room to be more judicious, and some could've been cut ("Hug Doves" and "3 Kings"), decisions that would've led to something with greater overall impact and strength.

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