Muja Messiah: Thee Adventures of a B-Boy D-Boy

There's a thin line in hip hop between engaging contradiction and hypocritical convolution, and a grand tradition of both. For the former, see KRS's educated gangsta diatribes or Grand Puba's Five Percenter lothario put-ons. For the latter, reference DMX's messy sacred/profane shtick. Joining right in is Muja Messiah, whose album title suggests either an amazing dynamism or shameless populism, depending on what side of that thin line you suspect Messiah falls (I say he's on the side of good). But regardless, whether genuinely complex or just crassly marketed, the project is long on quality and sure to please the heads and the masses in equal amounts.

Messiah trades in well-worn tropes, with his rebellious spirit of guarded yet assured optimism and righteous anger, and his subject matters of blowing cush, staying fresh, repping local pride, and hustling by necessity (and even his more "B-boy" topics really only skim the surface). Fortunately, he overcomes the unoriginality through masterful song craftsmanship and a rock-solid delivery full of swagger and satisfying rhythm, and by picking a grab bag of producers that craft far more winners than lemons. Highlights include the plinking piano and clandestine flows of "At All Cost (My Economics)," the eclectic energy of "Royalty" (with Maria Isa), and the ubiquitous "Patriot Act" with I Self Devine (and that's just from the last quarter of the disc). With uniformly organic collabos and a diverse but carefully chosen soundscape, the album makes up in solid hooks and an endless array of 16-bar assaults what it lacks in cohesion. Even the skits have high replay value. Taken as a whole, the project's length and variation is less exhilarating than exhausting—better to download it and skip around for your favorite cuts. Trust me, you'll have no trouble finding them.

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