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12 April, 2006@12:00 am

     Rap is nothing, if not all, about the story. As important as lyrical flow or a hot beat, the narrative thrust of what the emcee is presenting can set a career soaring, or halt a veteran’s momentum dead in its tracks. Like noir hero Philip Marlowe in the latter Chandler novels, or Mr. Miyagi in Karate Kid III, The B.G., now B Gizzle, is a great character in a limp story. Since leaving Cash Money Records, the New Orleans label that made millionaires – and drug addicts – out of a few bravado-filled teenagers, B.G. has struggled to find his identity. His 2004, Life After Cash Money, was rightfully indignant and in parts fascinating, but was marred by a lack of focus and beats that seemed to be purchased off the internet.

    The frustration continues on The Heart of tha Streetz Vol. 2 – I Am What I Am, a release that should be utterly compelling in the wake of Katrina, not to mention Juvenile and Lil’ Wayne’s ascension to pretty good and amazing, respectively. The effort begins with promise on “Move Around,” a trunk-rattling, Southern-fried banger with the endearing chorus “I’m from the ghetto homeyyy/I was raised on bread and bolognayyyyy.” That certain hurricane is addressed defiantly and that’s the tone B.G. maintains on that topic throughout. It’s exactly what we would expect and doesn’t disappoint. From this point, however, the release goes through the slow motions. A couple of mid-tempo’s with an R&B refrain here, an ATL whistle there. The requisite Soulja Slim shout-out track “Living Right” flirts with turning into an ear-pleaser, but Tone Tone does it no favors with his foot-dragging rhythm and annoying vocal contributions. When Gizzle is finally given a decent background to ride, the Swisha-style “Deuces Up,” complete with Paul Wall guest, it’s an ill fit.

    The truth is, B.G.’s voice wants to party, and that’s at the heart of the disappointment here. Juvie’s menacing growl can support throwing on a George W. Bush mask and flipping birds amidst the wreckage. Lil’ Wayne’s outer space inflection demands to be listened to no matter what he’s putting out there. But Gizzle was blessed with a turn-it-to-11 tone, but he’s found himself with lofty ambitions he can’t live up to, and surrounded by a posse that lack imagination. “Yeah Nigga Yeah” is the sonic equivalent of a lazy, herb-heavy Sunday on the couch with your boys, but without the fun. “Pussy Pop,” in a very weird way, is the biggest letdown, because if there’s one thing you can count on with the N.O., it’s a good strip club joint. This, like everything else on the release, comes off like high schoolers imagining what a lap dance might feel like; in other words way off the mark.

    He says on “Gotta Get Me,” I told ya/Once my deal up, game over/I’m goin independent/And gettin money like Hova.” After all of it, there is still much to like about B.G, but every choice he’s made on this album (as well as his recent industry trajectory) has been wrong, and while he’ll always hold a special place in the hearts of anyone who ever banged out “Bling Bling,” it may be time to swallow the pride and (gasp!) ask Weezy for some career advice.

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