Although Big Mike has been on the fringes of the south Texas hip-hop scene since the early '90s (he was in the Geto Boys just after the period of the group's biggest notoriety, and scored some solo hits later in the decade), Keep It Playa is a fresh-sounding album that's not connected in sound or style to recent Houston stars like Mike Jones or Paul Wall. Musically, Keep It Playa has a funky, swampy feel based on vintage keyboard sounds recalling Stevie Wonder, Bernie Worrell and other old-school space-funk players, set against clever, interesting beats. But the album's focus is solely on Big Mike's raps, and for those who forgot him during his nearly decade-long layoff from the rap mainstream, he's a revelation. Reminiscent of no one on the current scene, Big Mike has a flow so conversational and unaffected that even his hooks and choruses sound spontaneous and unaffected. Guest verses are kept to a minimum and feature locals from south Texas over stars, which leaves Big Mike thoroughly in charge. Even "Leaving Louisiana," which seems to reference the post-Katrina exodus, has a no-bull swagger. Hardcore gangsta without any of the usual posturing (and a refreshing lack of those skits that impede the flow of so many hip-hop albums), Keep It Playa shows that Big Mike's 2005 comeback was no one-off.
AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason