C-Rayz Walz, Ravipops: The Substance (2003)
The production could be better. Save for a few standout tracks like Ste-lo’s melancholy “We Live,” most of the backing tracks fade too easily into the background. Then again, perhaps it’s the sharpness of C-Rayz’s voice. He has a grainy, jumpy cadence that is difficult to ignore. This imbalance — dope lyrics, so-so tracks — gives Ravipops a studious quality that makes it difficult to digest. The only element that keeps you listening is his wordplay; his penchant for weaving elusive narratives held together by witty punchlines (“I’ve never been slim/But my attitude’s still Shady,” he raps on “The Essence”), slang, and in-jokes deserves close listening, even at the expense of the music itself. The beats are by Plain Pat, who went on to manage Kid Cudi; 4th Pyramid, Black Panther, Belief, and others. Definitive Jux.