Black Dynasty

Reality Check: Deep East

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Some rappers become internationally famous by representing the 'hood; thanks to N.W.A., rap fans in Stockholm, Sweden, and Milan, Italy, have learned a lot about Compton, CA, and its social problems even if they have never visited North America. For other MCs, however, representing the 'hood can mean more local than national or international success -- and the 'hood could be anywhere from Memphis to São Paulo, Brazil, to Warsaw, Poland. For Black Dynasty, the 'hood is East Oakland. That's the area that the West Coast group celebrated on its 1995 single "Deep East Oakland," which became a big local anthem in the Bay Area even though it wasn't a huge seller in other regions of the United States. After the death of group member Dion Stewart -- who was shot and killed by an Oakland convenience store owner during a failed robbery attempt -- Black Dynasty went on hiatus. Reality Check, a 2002 effort, is their first release in seven years. This CD opens with "Deep East Oakland, Pt. II (Reality Check)," which is a sequel to the original "Deep East Oakland" and sets the tone for the rest of the album. Reality Check is typical West Coast gangsta rap, and the material employs the usual playa/baller/pimpin' imagery that one expects from this type of group. Lyrically, there's nothing groundbreaking about the album; Black Dynasty's Kariem Abdullah doesn't say anything that Dr. Dre, Above the Law, DJ Quik, and Compton's Most Wanted weren't saying ten years earlier. Nonetheless, most of the tunes are enjoyably funky, and Abdullah does have a likable way of riding a P-Funk-influenced groove. Reality Check won't go down in history as one of rap's all-time masterpieces, but it's a decent, if derivative, comeback for the Oakland outfit.

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