Before Pete Miser moved from Portland, OR, to Brooklyn, NY, he was a West Coast rapper with a very East Coast-influenced sound -- East Coast as in De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, the Jungle Brothers, and other jazzy alternative rappers who were part of the Native Tongues movement in the '80s and '90s. Not every MC who has had that type of sound grew up in the Northeastern United States; Common is from Chicago, and the Pharcyde are from Los Angeles. Nonetheless, the East Coast has dominated the Native Tongues sound, and the fact that Miser was so Tongues-influenced made him an anomaly among West Coast MCs when he provided his first solo album, What It Be, in 1996. This CD came at a time when Miser was still Portland-based, and it isn't typical of the hip-hop discs that were coming from the West Coast at the time -- in 1996, a Portland MC wasn't supposed to have a style that brought to mind De La Soul instead of Snoop Dogg, A Tribe Called Quest instead of Dr. Dre, or the Jungle Brothers instead of Warren G. What It Be is oblivious to the million-selling G-funk sounds that were dominating California and the Pacific Northwest back then, and even though Miser sometimes raps in the third person about the dangers of urban crime, he never provides any graphic first-person accounts of thug life -- tracks like "Grand Tradition" and "One Tall Glass of Wine" are straight-up alt-rap. Miser's second solo album, Radio Free Brooklyn, is his most essential release, but What It Be was a solid and promising debut for the Asian-American MC.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson