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Late Pass

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Album Review

Though rapper Raydar Ellis is a very capable producer in his own right, on his full-length debut, Late Pass, he's more than willing to use other people's beats to back his rhymes if they hit him right. This makes for fantastic diversity within the album. From the warm Carolina soul of "Applause" and "Growth" to the near-club tracks "Whatchu Do Dat Deah" and "Shut S**t Down" to the backpacker feel in "I 4 an I" and "Pay Homage," the rapper finds a way to best use producers in order to most effectively present his own style and what he's trying to say. And, as Ellis is a thoughtful, careful MC, not one to throw in syllables or rhymes just to fit the flow, the variation in his beats only works to highlight the variation in his topics. He's just as willing to write a light-hearted — albeit crude — ode to big women ("Fat Chicks") as he is to confess his love ("If I Could Paint Your Picture") or discuss racial stereotypes ("Sambo Song"). This kind of eclecticism could run the risk of making the album sound disjointed — something Ellis almost tried to promote with his "Preface" skit, which imagines him waking up to his label demanding a record and the accompanying scrounging through tapes trying to pull something together — but it's not. Because the rapper admits mistakes and shortcomings as much as he boasts about his lyrical abilities, because he's not afraid to show off his intelligence as well as his more playful side, he presents an honest picture of himself, which allows him to broach such a broad subject range while still keeping the record's integrity and overall flow intact. There's a lot of underground hip-hop that fails to do this, generally due to a level of talent either in production or rhyme that eventually — and often sooner rather than later — shows itself to be weak and forgettable. But Ellis and his North Carolina and Beantown crews seem to be impervious to these problems that afflict both veteran and rookie rappers, and because of it, they end up making one of the more consistently genuinely good records to come out in a while.


Born: White Plains, NY

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '00s

Born to a middle-class family in White Plains, NY, Brian Ellis spent most of his life in New Jersey and Connecticut (where he moved right before high school). It was in Connecticut that he first began to get interested in hip-hop, writing rhymes constantly and working on beats as often as he could. Nicknamed "Raydar" by his friends because of his habit of researching and tracking down information, Ellis enrolled in North Carolina A&T State University in order to study electrical engineering....
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Late Pass, Radar Ellis
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