Big Hutch

Live From the Ghetto

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In jazz, blues, and folk, it isn't uncommon for an artist to reach his/her commercial peak after 30 (or even after 40). But rap is another matter. An extremely youth-obsessed medium, hip-hop has long had an "out with the old, in with the new" attitude -- which is why so many MCs will peak at 21 or 22 and quit recording altogether by the time they hit 30. But Gregory Hutchinson (aka Cold 187um or Big Hutch) has stayed in the game longer than a lot of rappers; the Los Angeles-based MC joined Above the Law in 1989 and was still providing gangsta rap 15 years later. Lyrically, Hutch's second solo album, Live From the Ghetto, doesn't break any new ground for the veteran rapper, who continues to rhyme about the dangers of life in the 'hood and the abundance of players, ballers, hustlers, thugs, and hardheads one is likely to encounter on the tough streets of South Central L.A. But by adjusting his flow and his production style to appeal to 2004 tastes, Hutch pretty much manages to avoid sounding dated. Hutch isn't rapping or producing exactly like he did back in 1990, and yet many of the things that make the Southern Californian who he is haven't changed -- not his subject matter, and not his love of soulful hooks and melodies. Hutch, like fellow Californians Too Short and Dr. Dre, has long had a passion for '70s soul and funk -- and that passion makes for some enjoyably infectious grooves whether he is sampling the late Curtis Mayfield on "Give Me Yo Love" or making some War-like moves on "Ghetto Love." Live From the Ghetto is unlikely to convert anyone who isn't already a Hutch fan, but it's a respectable outing that underscores the MC's longevity in the thugged-out gangsta rap game.

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