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From the Black Pool of Genius

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Album Review

Strictly speaking, From the Black Pool of Genius is not a Black Sheep album. Black Sheep was originally, of course, a duo, comprised of Dres and Mista Lawnge, who put out their much-lauded debut, A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, in 1991. The pair officially split in 1994, and though they briefly reunited in 2000, haven't done much work together since then. This didn't change for Black Pool…, which although (smartly) marketed as a Black Sheep record, is in fact a Dres album (albeit much better than his previous solo attempts).

All of this, however, ends up being nit-picky and cursory, and wholly unimportant, when it comes down to the actual content of the album, which is very good. Dres is smart enough to choose talented and recognizable guests who add to both his cred and the quality of the song, and they nearly all deliver. The Beatnuts' Psycho Les is impressive on his verse (and the production) on "Important Fact," one of the best tracks on the record ("I'm able to dish it because I got so many donkeys I'm in a stable condition/I'm independent, while you gotta get label permission," he spits), Rhymefest waxes poetic on the clever "Power to the Pih Poh" ("When Obama got elected I told my job ‘I quit/'Y'all ain' know? It's fin be some change in this bitch'/Now months later, the stimulus still ain't hit/Cash for clunkers, I'm still driving the same old whip"), and fellow Native Tongues Q-Tip, Mike Gee from Jungle Brothers, and De La Soul's Dave sound as good as ever on "Birds of a Feather" (only Rosie Perez feels underutilized on the silly and trite "Muy Bueno"). But it's Dres's own work that makes From the Black Pool of Genius great, from the hypocrisy-revealing "Born to Che" to the name-checking "Splash." Dres has always done a good job of balancing humor with consciousness in a way that doesn't degrade either, and so songs like "Forever Luvlee," "For the Record," "Reason to Pray" and the aforementioned "Born to Che" are all progressive without sounding preachy. His flow is easy but controlled, his voice just as easy to listen to — and his stories as pertinent — as they were two decades ago. From the Black Pool of Genius may be a comeback record of sorts, but it doesn't feel like something from a guy who just wants people to remember all that he was. Instead, it's clearly from someone who knows who he is.


Formed: 1990 in New York, NY [The Bronx]

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Remembered for a couple of striking singles and their membership in the Native Tongues family of groups, Black Sheep also recorded one of rap music's most entertaining debuts, A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing. Handling both production and delivery, Dres and Mista Lawnge appeared headed for a long, rewarding career, but unfortunately faded after the release of their long-delayed sophomore set. Both members, Andre Titus (Dres) and William McLean (Mista Lawnge), were natives of New York who grew up in North...
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