“Next up? Yo I believe that’s me.” Those words certainly did not have any long term implications. After showing (and proving) as a 17 year old alongside Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Masta Ace and Marley Marl in ’89 on “The Symphony,” Craig looked like he was destined for great things. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before he faded into obscurity. He kept his rep alive by sharpening his teeth in freestyle battles, but it paled in comparison to the legendary status his Juice Crew peers reached. That was then, this is now.

As you may or may not know, Craig G wrote the raps of Eminem’s opponents in 8 Mile. One listen to the opening track, “Don’t Care Who We Bang,” and you’ll know why he was chosen. His versatility is instantly displayed as he goes from battle mode to storyteller on the very next song, a flavorful Alchemist offering, “Wrong Chick.” Craig enlists the help of some of NYC’s staple boardmen; Primo gets vintage on “Ready Set Begin” and Rockwilder brings his best beat in a minute with “Stomped.” It is G’s reunion with Marley Marl that brings the most fire though. Both Juice Crew alumni’s bring their A games for the lead single “Let’s Get Up.” Another legend in Large Pro brings the goods too as G and Xtra P flex the chemistry on “Love Is Love.”

Craig and Krumbsnatcha sound nice over a smooth Beatminerz track (“Make You Say Yes”). Between G’s introspective rhymes and Domingo’s soulful keys, “Do It Over Again” vibes like an early Nas song. Its not all gravy though, he strays from his bread and butter with a few sub par offerings in “Now That’s What’s Up” and “Say What You Want.” All is forgiven after his blazing accapella freestyles though.

One listen to this album and most will realize that Craig G could have easily been one of NYC’s premier emcees throughout the 90’s had he have continued to record. Nevertheless, in 2003 Craig G can still hang with the best of’em. The production could have been stronger in some points and a few more collabos with Marley certainly would have been welcome, but a nice album overall. “This Is Now!!!” should get some rotation in your stereo.