It doesn't hurt to have friends like Wyclef Jean, Snoop Dogg, and Mary J. Blige. But Angie Martinez stands her ground when rapping alongside mega-rap stars like these on her debut album, Up Close and Personal (Elektra Records). The Hot 97 FM DJ is no stranger to the scene; she's been fraternizing with hip-hop and rap stars and establishing friendships with many of them, including the artists that appear on the album. Martinez shines on tracks like "Gutter to tha Fancy Ish," on which she flaunts her quick-tongued rap technique and a tough-girl attitude while alternating verses with none other than Busta Rhymes. Speaking about hangin' with her girls, Martinez lays the truth down on the line when she says, "Underestimate me is to not know me/analyze every situation/and I rise to any occasion." On the funky, bass-driven track "New York, New York," Martinez raps with Prodigy and DJ Clue. The album features mostly heavy, bass-driven rap tracks, but Martinez's playfulness trickles in through a pair of brief interludes -- recordings of phone conversations with her rapper pals. Martinez then slips smoothly into hip-hop mode with the laid-back track "No Playaz," which showcases Martinez's singing ability and some backup verse from rappers Lil' Mo and Sunshine. "Live at Jimmy's" is by far the most energetic and fun song on the album. Mary J. Blige and La India come on board for the rap track "Breathe," which could double as a pop tune with its breathy chorus and melodic beats. And Martinez proves that she's no lightweight on the fast-paced, aggressive track "Go!" On her first time around, Martinez has delivered a well-rounded album that features solid raps, Latin grooves, and a few lighter, melodic tunes. In between rapping with some of rap and hip-hop's heaviest hitters, Martinez slips in a mention of HBO's Sex and the City on one of the songs. Now, there's a girl you gotta respect.
AllMusic Review by Kerry L. Smith
feat: DJ U-Neek
feat: La India de Oriente