By Reed Fischer
By Anna Gulbrandsen
By Jeff Gage
By Stacy Schwartz
By Natalie Gallagher
By Erik Thompson
By Jeff Gage
By Loren Green
ATLANTA MC COOL Breeze is smooth. So smooth he can recycle gangsta clichés, heckle non-Southerners with impenetrable local slang, and present himself with "the key to the South." He is, in fact, so smooth that his buddies in Goodie Mob didn't mind when he stole the show on their debut single, "The Dirty South" (from '95's Soul Food), on which Breeze taunted local law enforcement officials (by name, no less), and detailed his crafty hustlin' methods. "My favorite, I call it Lemonhead Delight," Breeze rapped. "That's where you lick off all the yellow and you sell the white."
Breeze is the latest breakout from the Atlanta crew known as the Dungeon Family, which includes Big Rube, Witchdoctor, and, most notable, Goodie Mob and OutKast. Easily one of the most innovative forces in contemporary hip hop, the Family shares a production crew, Organized Noize, and a mindset: combine pop-songcraft (clever sampling and radio-friendly hooks) and underground attitude (dazzling, at times confounding, wordplay and off-kilter beats).
"Watch for the Hook," the lead single from Breeze's debut, East Point's Greatest Hit, showcases the entire Dungeon crew. Speeding along to a sample of Neil Young's "Southern Man," the beat cracks like a whip as nine MCs yelp, scat, and holler, barely keeping up. The title isn't just a boxing reference, but also a pun on the song's refusal to spring the chorus until the outro, when Breeze finally cuts in, proclaiming himself "the champ," with force and restraint. Likewise, the production throughout East Point, mostly by Organized Noize, is spot-on, with eerie atmospherics and beats that successfully bridge Timbaland's stick-and-move groove and Funkadelic's space odysseys.
The rest of his debut doesn't hit as hard: Turns out that Breeze's gangsta pose doesn't hold up as well as his poetic patois. On tracks like "Hit Men" and "Black Gangster," he takes cold-blooded pride in pragmatically defending the killing of other dealers as smart, entrepreneurial initiative. But the record is saved when admissions of weakness sneak through the cracks in his stance. On "The Field," "E. P. G. H.," and "Tenn Points," dealing becomes Breeze's disease, his addiction--with hip hop serving as his only therapy. As Breeze raps on "E. P. G. H.," "Young Cool Breeze ain't never done time/When the folks went to raid, I was home writin' rhymes."
While Greatest Hit isn't the mind-blower that "Dirty South" forecasted, it still overflows with great lines (like the dis to a hater on "The Calhouns") and sharp puns ("I like G.R.I.T.S.-- Girls Raised In The South"). Cool Breeze obviously has the chops to be a ferocious MC--he just needs to learn to quit dropping his best rhymes on his friends' records.