Kardinal Offishall

Quest for Fire: Firestarter, Vol. 1

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While there are a slew of Canadian MCs (Saukrates, Choclair, Rascalz, and Swollen Members) who appear ready to reverse the stigma of the up-north rapper, as of yet, none have been able to elude the novelty label. On "Bakardi Slang," the anthemic lead single to his Quest for Fire: Firestarter, Vol. 1 major-label debut, Toronto's Kardinal Offishal declares "Kardinal gonna show you how the T-Dot rolls." Yet Kardinal, much like his fellow Circle member Choclair, displays only flashes of promise here. Firestarter takes on many identities: the insightful consciousness of "Man By Choice" (which explores the origin of the "N" word and all of its nasty connotations), the underground delight of the Saukrates-featured "Gotta Get It," and "Husslin'." Yet, there is also a commercial element at work here, as a slew of tracks (e.g., "Powerful" and "Quest for Fire") are undermined by flimsy R&B hooks, which actually make you appreciate Lil' Mo. Granted, Kardinal does attempt to showcase some versatility with Firestarter, whether through the low-budget musing of "U R Ghetto 2002" or by soaking Firestarter with his tropically enhancing West Indian heritage, which is a major influence here. Firestarter has enough Jamaican dancehall riddims to make the average Bounty Killer fan say "Bwoy," but at 73 minutes and change, it's also enough to make the average b-boy say "Bo-ring."

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