Mr. Cheeks

John P. Kelly

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Mr. Cheeks' solo debut finds him having grown substantially since his days fronting the Lost Boyz. Where he used to rap about "Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimaz & Benz" back in 1995 to much success, he takes a disparaging view of materialism and sensationalism here. It's a refreshing change, particularly given the glamorous state of hip-hop in 2001. Yet as wonderful it is to hear Cheeks speak knowledge, express passion, and represent mind over materialism, he could really use some new producers. Granted, there are some amazing tracks here courtesy of Bink!, Stephen Marley, and Easy Mo Bee, but this trio only handles a fraction of the tracks here. The other tracks aren't nearly as effective, and it's not because of Cheeks -- he's stellar throughout -- but rather because of the producers. It's tough to take a disparaging view of John P. Kelly because Cheeks obviously has invested substantial emotion and effort into this record, and he truly shines. You just wish Bink!, Marley, and Mo Bee would have handled the entire album rather than just a song or two apiece. Despite the musical shortcomings, though, Cheeks' solo debut still impresses more than it disappoints, and it's a definite step forward from his days in the Lost Boyz -- a step in the right direction. And besides, the stellar hit single "Lights, Camera, Action!" may be reason enough for some to champion John P. Kelly.

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