Long Beach's Crooked I has had hopes of changing West Coast Hip Hop since 2002, when his Untouchable album was originally scheduled for release on Suge Knight's reformed label, Tha Row. His former home has since fallen on hard times. But Crooked has raised his profile by releasing a seemingly endless string of mixtapes and freestyles. Hoping to complete the transformation from worker to boss, Crooked I has released the second installment of his Block Obama EP.
Two key ingredients separate Crooked I from the rest of the left coast's would-be heads of state. He has a variety of flows which are all properly showcased on tracks like "Circle Gang Anthem" and "Can I Talk to You?!" Crooked is the rare emcee who is equally skilled at layering metaphors, battling a rival and storytelling. Block Obama II demonstrates his ability in all of these areas, and on "American Me" he manages to accomplish all three on the same song.
"The hood is Vietnam mixed with Lebanon/so we need Charles Barron to lead like Farrakhan/'cause most of y'all leaders would make Coretta yawn/build for the future instead of better bombs/Barry Bonds the game I keep hittin home/I keep hittin chrome/I creep with the long nose/'cause lord knows it ain't a street that the beef isn't on," he spits.
Komplex handles the heavy lifting on four of the EP's eight tracks. He brings the traditional West Coast production elements: high pitched synthesizers, sparse keys and some occasional Nate Dogg-inspired crooning on a few of the hooks. There's enough variety for Crooked to switch up his flow. As the in-house producer for Treacherous Records, Komplex throws the proverbial curveball by switching up his tempo and drums, and mixing in some staccato high hats reminiscent of Mannie Fresh's memorable run during Cash Money's heyday. The result is a cohesive work that creates the feel of traditional West Coast music without sounding dated or coming off like yet another G-funk clone.
You'd be hard pressed to actually find anything wrong with the The Block Obama II, other than the fact that it's an EP as opposed to a proper album. As such, you can't help but wonder if he's holding back some of the real fireworks for later. Bay Area legend Rick Rock, and newcomers Jim Gittum, Kid Genius, BH and the Circle of Bosses drop in to respectively keep things fun behind the boards and the mic. If Crooked's "Hip-Hop Weekly" freestyle series and the previous Block Obama effort left you wanting more, this sequel won't disappoint. Crooked is now in the same position as his EP's namesake. His boasts of implementing change have been heard by a frustrated Hip Hop nation. If he can deliver a stellar performance on his upcoming B.O.S.S. album, his inauguration as thenew voice of West Coast Hip Hop will be complete.