Raheem Bashawn, formerly of the Geto Boys, was only 17 when, in 1988, he recorded his first solo album, The Vigilante. Because the infamous, highly controversial Geto Boys are best known for gangsta rap, some people might assume that The Vigilante is a gangsta rap album. But it isn't. Although The Vigilante is definitely hardcore rap, it doesn't contain any first-person accounts of drive-by shootings, gang bangs, or carjackings. Raheem actually spends most of the album attacking rival MCs and articulating why he believes he's superior; so lyrically, The Vigilante is much closer to L.L. Cool J, Run-D.M.C. or Big Daddy Kane than N.W.A., Ice-T, or the Geto Boys. When Raheem raps about getting out the shotgun, it's merely a figure of speech -- he's saying that his rhyming skills have the power to make "sucker MCs" get out of hip-hop and find another line of work. A few of the tracks tackle social issues (including "Say No" and "Peace"), but most of the material is apolitical. But while The Vigilante is dominated by fairly conventional lyrics, the production of Karl Stephenson and James Smith sets it apart from many of the rap albums that came out in 1988. At the time, a lot of hip-hop producers (especially on the East Coast) went for the drum machine/scratching/sampling formula favored by East Coast residents like Marley Marl. But The Vigilante is more musical, and Stephenson uses synthesizers to play real melodies: pop/rock melodies, funk melodies, and reggae melodies. Musically, this LP is impressive, and like a lot of Dr. Dre's work with N.W.A., Snoop Doggy Dogg, and others, it demonstrates that hip-hop can be hardcore and musical at the same time.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson