The RBL Posse deserves much more respect. Nineteen years ago, the Hunters Point trio of Black C, Mister Cee and Hitman began an independent movement that would eventually lead them to an Atlantic/Big Beat Records contract. RBL Posse were never high on lyricism, but the group succeeded in delivery realistic street accounts over-top sample-heavy beats from a point-blank range. With Mister Cee and Hitman both tragically murdered in 1996 and 2003 respectively, Black C is the last man standing among a veteran Bay area outfit that’s been victim of tragedy. C’s third solo album, 70’s Baby carries RBL’s strengths, but serves a next step to middle-aged gangsterism.


“Can’t Go Back” captures what 70’s Baby’s theme is – wisdom. Black C rhymes his way through a Sunday family get-together, talking about the food, his grandmother and the forgotten music. Such are the pleasures of the generation between 30 and 40, as a boisterous Soul sample covers for Black C’s simple bars to truly capture the mood. “Need The Luv” is far less innocent. Here, Chris basically chronicles his rise in the drug game, and how the resulting street credibility gave RBL Posse the respect it took to be the soundtrack to one of the most notorious neighborhoods in America. Both of the examples show Black C as he always was, a storyteller who favors single-syllable cadences and staccato deliveries. However, like other early ‘90s Gangsta Rap mainstays, it’s the content, not the craft, that earns C his place and convinces the listener to take heed. “Where We All Began,” like Screwball’s “You Love To Hear The Stories,” is an essential retelling of how Hunters Point’s Rap community was born, and how a troubled hood unified by making music.

Music itself is a key element of 70’s Baby. At the same time Gangsta Rap producers like Dr. Dre, Warren G and Cold187um were making masterful hits a few hundred miles south, Ruthless By Law suffered from simpler loops and absence of melody. That being said, Black C’s latest album is a Soul parade of thick, layered samples, pitched-up vocals and generally feel-good sources that all sound Cadillac-inspired. “I’ll Never Tell” sounds big and brassy, while “Can’t Go Back” has beautifully delivered vocals. The mere musicality of 70’s Baby appeals to anyone who grew up amidst Earth Wind & Fire, The Spinners and The O’Jays. With the exception of Sean T., many of these contributors are new to the national scene – and should be applauded for giving purpose and depth to a movement that pinnacled five years ago. This effort is a pillar within the RBL catalog.

Like the opening act of Carlito’s Way, 70’s Baby plays to the reformed gangsta. Any one aware of their history realizes that Black C’s family and career has been greatly affected by the violence of the San Francisco streets. Thereby he uses this album to school the youth, celebrate life’s pleasures and call to some good music along the way – not to pound his chest or promote destruction. Still, as you listen to his stories, and hear the energy in his voice, it’s quite apparent that one of Hip Hop’s true survivors is not far removed from the world that delivered him.