Defintiely not the most talked-about comeback in rap music
today, Hip Hop legend CL Smooth
dusts off his mic to bring us his first ever solo release, and his first real
project since his fallout with co-legend Pete
Rock. Barring less than a handful of feature cuts and collabs, Corey Penn drops American Me on indie label Shaman
Works, more than a decade after the duo pushed some of the greatest music
First, let’s get this out of the way. Pete shows up on one track (but that’s it), which, with little
surprise is one of the album gems. For anyone out there daft enough to say production
doesn’t matter; that “real Hip Hop” is about the lyrics and nothing else, “It’s
a Love Thing” proves you wrong. Not to take anything at all away from CL, but even he has to agree, he sounds
a lot better on a Pete Rock track.
This could be nostalgia talking, but when Pete’s
around, CL’s just so much more Smooth (pardon the corny-ass pun).
This alludes to both the high and low points of the album.
Those hoping or expecting the signature soulful rhymes and melodic flow CL has made his name off of will, at
best, be halfway catered to. Album standout, “CL Smooth Unplugged,” plus “Call
On Me,” “Warm Outside,” “All We Ever Know” and “Heaven is Watching You”
represent the chilled side of the record and the classic, fun loving CL really shines through.
The other side of American
Me will probably strike a chord with the die-hard Smooth fans, providing proof that it really has been over a decade.
Meaning, they may not know the man like they used to. Title track “American Me,”
“Gorilla Pimpin’,” “The Impossible,” “Smoke In The Air” and “The Stroll” hold
down a much darker and more aggressive side of Mr. Penn alien to most Soul
So is the new side of CL
we have been introduced to worse than the classic? Hardly. My usual formula for
running through albums is to credit the production of each track and how it
contributed to the feel of the album. But I doubt I’m alone in thinking that
since Pete didn’t really have a hand
in making this joint – the only question that mattered was “Can CL
Smooth bring it without Pete Rock?”
No offense to the rest of the production team (Heatmakerz, Mike Lowe, Squarta, etc.), but they didn’t matter
on this record.
Anyways, the answer is yes. CL can do it on his own. The lyrical prowess, the cadence, the
passion, the knowledge, and the flow – it’s all still there. The sad thing is
that music just doesn’t sound as dope without Mr. Rock behind the boards.
Let’s get something straight – this ain’t Pete Rock & CL Smooth, and CL makes
this clear from jump. With a sound byte from “Hell Boy” of all things, the
theme of this album thumps loud and clear, it’s not the origins of a man that
defines him, but the way he chooses to end things. Good shit CL.