Straight from the San Franciso Bay area, T-Bone, the long standing pioneer of west coast Gospel hip-hop, is back once again. This 30-year-old emcee follows up the mildly successful 2002 release Gospelalphamegafunkyboogiediscomusic with his first new project in three years, entitled Bone-A-Fide. The latest material from T-Bone features the production duo Sway and Tech and contains 14 tracks of pure madness and spirituality that the fan has come to expect from an individual that's come a long way since his debut in the rap game so many years ago. While some may think he's passed his prime, the self-proclaimed Boney Corleone shows that he can still crank out the jams with the best of them.
Bone-A-Fide's intro "The Rally" features an intense speaker calling for a more positive aspect of hip-hop and throwing away destructive behavior found in many mainstream rap artists; the same track appears later in the album in Spanish under the name "Hasta La Victoria Sempre." Like many long-standing emcees, T-Bone begins his flow in the rock-influenced "12 Years Ago" by paying respect and homage to popular groups and artists that went before him such as Run-DMC, LL Cool J, Kool Herc, and Kool Moe Dee. The Lauren Hill vibe of "Can I Live" features a sample of her popular hit "That Thing You Do" and has Bone confessing his feelings toward those who question his abilities by saying "Why can't ya'll leave me alone, man, seem like everybody be judging me, talking behind my back, faking the smiles then hugging me." Many of Bone-A-Fide's tracks are like the artist's previous efforts, with club bouncers like the rap battle-esque "Ya'll Can't Win" and "Bounce," which could even draw attention from mainstream emcees like Lil' Jon and Bonecrusher.
Mainstream rapper Mack 10 actually makes an appearance on the album in "A Few Good Men," which sports a funky beat and great lyrical stature, but really sounds like two guys just boasting about themselves in regards to their long careers throughout a 4-minute track. Surprisingly, "A Few Good Men" and "Follow T" do bring about familiar elements of GospelAlphaMegaFunkyBoogieDiscoMusic; unfortunately, the similarities are that they both have T-Bone describing the method of his rhymes and how none of his peers can match his styles. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but Gospel rappers like Bone need to realize that they don't have to conform to the world's standards of what it means to be cool and acceptable in today's society. However, the traditional Gospel-flavor of "Been Lookin Around" is about a man who thought he was satisfied with much wealth and earthly possessions, but searched his heart and found that he needed the love of God to complete his life.
Possibly the best tracks on the album are the Sway and Tech interlude, in which an amazing freestyle is dropped in reponse to Sway's insult of claiming that T-Bone had lost his flow and the beat-bouncer "Shake Ya Body," which has T-Bone displaying similar rhyme skills as Twista, even though Bone has been a recognizable force in hip-hop for a much longer time. Despite the fact that a couple of the album's tracks are mediocre in style, the interlude "Victory" closes out the album perfectly as a declaration of faith that all Christians must strive towards the ultimate victory found in Jesus Christ.
One remaining factor with T-Bone is that, although he seems to sound a little redundant in claiming his throne as the king of hip-hop, his music and message is a force to be reckoned with. Despite the fact that he owns fancy cars and expensive jewlery, it's refreshing to see a hip-hop pioneer who is able to meet the challenge of other emcees in his day as well as other up and coming artists. Bone-A-Fide is a certified winner in the continuing growth and maturity of hip-hop.- Review date: 9/17/05, written by Paul Portell
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