Lil' Romeo


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Like just about every other album on the new (or old, for that matter) No Limit label, Game Time is overlong and musically undernourished, its best songs built on samples threadbare from frequent use. But it also reminds you that labelhead Master P didn't make his millions by accident, because his 12-year-old son, Lil' Romeo, is the embodiment of his true genius: marketing. While nearly every other pint-sized rapper is champing at the bit to be treated like a grownup, Lil' Romeo sounds perfectly content to be a kid on his sophomore outing. (And so does his dad, shrewdly recognizing the potential audience for a G-rated young MC who nevertheless has some street cred, thanks to his bloodlines). The competition would be trying to rhyme an older woman like Solange Knowles into the sack, but when she shows up as Romeo's duet partner on "True Love," he's respectful in a way guaranteed to warm the hearts of frazzled parents. Despite the obvious image tinkering behind the scenes, though, his fresh-faced appeal is very real -- the sort of charisma that once made Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson national sweethearts. Lil' Romeo certainly isn't in that weight class, and his verses don't suggest an incredible musical future, either. Yet his charm gives a spark to even tired creations like "2 Way," built on the familiar strains of "It Takes Two," and suggests his true destiny -- like that of another clean-talking young rapper, Will Smith -- probably lies in front of the camera, instead of behind the mic.

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