BEST R&B ARTIST (2001)
Sure, the hallucinatory hip hop of Red Lights and Poetry-founder Toriano Sanzone resembles R&B (a.k.a. contemporary black pop) about as much as Basehead, Tricky, or the Black Album does. But, like that company, Sanzone deserves a special designation outside of rap, even if the new Beautiful Darkness 44:44 (GG Entertainment) contains little singing. One reason is that Sanzone and his Mankato-based producer Luke Harper offer local black pop something rare here: a new sound. With one studio for every hundred vocalists in town, most crooners and MCs consider recording an opportunity to prove oneself on sure turf rather than do something dangerous. As a result, only self-contained production units such as Mint Condition, Vanguard, the Sensational Joint Chiefs, and, well, Prince, have even attempted to push the funk forward. If Sanzone gets the attention he deserves outside the poetry locker room, his sense of behind-the-beat rhyming, his Kid A backdrops of eerie orchestral grooving, and his endless lyrical angst implosions might become--hold that chuckle--party music.