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25 May, 2005@12:00 am

     Hip-hop experimentation is hit or miss.  Common seemed to hit rock bottom when he dropped the organic-heavy Electric Circus, while Outkast’s Andre 3000 “Hey Ya”‘d his way to diamond sales.  Fred Durst and his Limp Bizkit couldn’t even gain acceptance in the hood with a Method Man cameo, but Jay-Z’s “Encore” meshed perfectly with Linkin Park’s “Numb.” 

      Enter Proe, a Santa Cruz MC who aspires to be like Tom Waits (if you’ve even heard that name before reading this review, send me an e-mail at  “Welcome to the sound of the American youth/where hip-hop and rock n’ roll is the only voice we can use,” he says on “The Prelude.”  He does exactly that, but not just the heavy metal that other would-be trendsetters overuse.  “Butterfly” combines xylophones and guitar twangs, “Sleeping With the Television On” utilizes harmonica croons, and “The Last Train Home” almost channels Hendrix with its heavy electronic guitar riffs.  Aside from three tracks, the entire album is self-produced—this isn’t just a matter of finding friends in the rock world, the kid really is that multi-faceted.

      Oh yeah—he raps too.  Proe’s lyrical content nearly rivals his musical tastes in its variety.  He addresses depression on “Cages,” social ills on “The Break Down,” and examines love on “Always Something New.”  Proe can spit the same witty, battle-ready verses that he does on the ruckus “Big Step Little Step” that he rhymes over the electric relaxation of “Robot.”
 While Proe’s new album isn’t Perfect, it still ably accomplishes experimental rap album goals: he established his own style, and made music that isn’t only bearable, but actually Grade A quality.  If he makes even more progress, a flawless LP isn’t out the picture.

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