Back in the '60s and '70s, soul music had plenty of regional sounds. Memphis had a distinctive sound, as did Chicago, Philadelphia, and Detroit. And in the 21st century, hip-hop can be every bit as regional as R&B was back in the day. New York and Philly MCs tend to have their own way of flowing; rappers from the South and the West Coast also have their regional rapping styles. If one heard Informal Introduction -- Shade Sheist's first full-length solo album -- without knowing anything about the rapper, it would be easy to assume that he was from the West Coast. And sure enough, Sheist was born and raised in the Los Angeles area. This 2002 release is unmistakably West Coast -- Sheist's rapping style is right out of Snoop Dogg, Warren G, DJ Quik, and Eazy-E, and the sleek, R&B-drenched grooves (some of which have a strong George Clinton/P-Funk influence) owe a lot to the influential Dr. Dre. Because of that heavy Snoop/Quik/Dre/Warren G influence, Sheist will inevitably be categorized as a gangsta rapper. But lyrically, Informal Introduction isn't all that violent. Although Sheist uses plenty of profanity and employs a lot of playa/baller/hustler/pimpin' imagery, this CD is more entertaining than threatening -- essentially, Informal Introduction is an R-rated party album. By 21st century standards, Sheist is hardly groundbreaking; no one who has listened to Snoop, Dre, Warren, and Quik extensively in the '90s will find Informal Introduction to be the least bit innovative. But the grooves are generally likable, and tunes like "Thug Luv" and "Stop...And Think About It" are fairly catchy -- highly derivative, certainly, but catchy nonetheless. Informal Introduction won't go down in history as one of West Coast rap's definitive releases, but it's a decent, if slightly uneven, effort that does have its moments.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
feat: King Arthur