The Diary of an American Witchdoctor

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Witchdoctor, a longstanding member of Atlanta's Dungeon Family, has been spitting verses for over a decade now, even releasing his debut on Interscope back in 1997, but he's never been able to break out to the general public the way groups like OutKast and Goodie Mob have. This is certainly by no fault of his own, because although he's not quite as quirky or iconic as André 3000 or Cee-Lo, Witchdoctor is a talented, interesting artist, able to rap about sex and violence and spirituality simultaneously without coming across as insincere. In the ten years between his first album, A S.W.A.T. Healin' Ritual, and his [adult swim]-issued The Diary of an American Witchdoctor, he self-released a number of records (and a handful of whose tracks appear here) and wrote a book of poetry, and his dedication to his craft shows. Because The Diary of an American Witchdoctor, an alluring mix of bravado, reflection, and religion, is able to blur the lines between gangsta and conscious seamlessly, appealing to both sides of the spectrum without ostracizing the other. Much of this should be attributed to the album's production, which is consistently good, combining strict but unobtrusive drums with warm instrumentation, synth lines, and sample bits, simple and straightforward but still engaging and interesting, and it is this that gives a kind of genuineness and underlying truth to the lyrics. Witchdoctor isn't worrying about how heavy or hooky his beats are; he's just thinking about what he's saying, and so even though many of his verses could fit in with many more mainstream rap releases ("My semi-automatic, I cock back and let you have it," he repeats on "Semiautomatic," for example), the songs don't possess the same kind of posturing that many of those of his peers do. Add this to the rapper's own, well-practiced delivery -- focused and intense but with a bit of the Southern looseness that has made the region's music so popular, his crackly voice going down to a growl and up into a sweet, odd Cody ChesnuTT-ish croon -- and you've got something tough and sexual, praising God, women, and himself in equal measure, one of the better hip-hop albums to come out in a long while.

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