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Bishop Lamont is Dr. Dre’s latest discovery and newest signee to the Aftermath imprint. However with the label’s track record for signing artists and never releasing an album, the Carson, California based emcee took matters into his own hands, releasing his N***** Noise mixtape earlier in the year. Combing a gangster-ass attitude, but with the skill of a underground lyricist, Bishop Lamont is the backpack thug defined. A self-proclaimed fan of classic records from the likes of Hiero and Freestyle Fellowship, Bishop knows his history and is trained in both schools of hip-hop. That being said, it comes as no surprise that Bishop has teamed up with rising Detroit producer Black Milk, for the collaborative mixtape-album, Caltroit.

For those unfamiliar with Black Milk, he is ½ of seemingly now defunct B.R. Gunna production team, who was responsible for much of the post-Dilla Slum Village production, on albums such as The Dirty District mixtape. Carrying the torch for the sound of Detroit – especially now – is no easy feat, but since the release of Black Milk’s debut LP, Popular Demand, the legacy of J. Dilla lives on through this young producer, who proves himself yet again on Caltroit.

The concept behind Caltroit was to take some of the best artists from both regions and give them the shine that they deserve; Bishop acts as the lead emcee and host, while Black Milk produces the majority of the album. The album kicks off with the title track, introducing the concept of “Caltroit”, over a hollowed out, bass heavy groove, and cracking snares, immediately evoking memories of the great James Yancey. Bishop is in top form here, suggesting “too many dick riding niggas, wasn’t bumping J. Dilla until J. Dilla died”, while shouting out a chorus of hoods in both Cali and Michigan. Black Milk proves himself right out the gate here, then shortly thereafter on “Mouth Music”. In perhaps the producers most ridiculous beat yet, each Bishop, Guilty Simpson, Busta Rhymes, and Black Milk himself deliver nasty lyrics suggesting “getting head on the dancefloor”, in Milk’s take on Collipark’s “Intimate Club Music” style of production, but with a dirty Detroit flair. Aftermath posse cut “On Top Now”, as Black’s chopped cinematic horror movie strings keep the head nodding in perpetual motion, as Stat Quo joins in the fray. Dr. Dre even makes an appearance, even giving props to Black Milk (now that’s big), as Bishop taunts with an outro speech; “you can’t even get a beat, nigga, let alone have Dre talk on some shit, nigga. I know you mad.” Fightin’ words?

Other standout moments include the lyrical free-for-all “Go Hard”, featuring two of the nastiest emcees from the fictional city of Caltroit, Ras Kass and Royce Da 5’9. And while Bishop himself at times is guilty of kicking some so-so braggadocio, he proves he can hang with the best of them on “Go At It”, another Dilla inspired posse cut, featuring Detroit’s Phat Kat and Elzhi. Here, Bishop delivers his most blistering verse on the whole tape, “Get twisted, more statistics / stretched out, chalked out, reminiscent of hieroglyphics / my Souls of Mischief flow’s malicious / it’s Bishop motherfucker, TiVo it if you missed it?” Say word?!

21 tracks deep, the album does begin to drag on a bit at the end, and it does have its flaws. Perhaps the biggest flaw with Caltroit is with Bishop’s unabashed shit talking and overuse of the N-word. Sure, we like our rappers cocky, but at times Bishop ad-libs seem to be a bit overdone, as virtually every space without a hook or a verse includes Bishop running off at the mouth. But as he becomes more polished for his Aftermath debut, we’re sure the good Doctor will fix him right up. Secondly, this album is too good to be banished to “mixtape” status. DJ Warrior’s drops and mixouts are standard with any mix CD, however in this case, a project this strong needs an unmixed and DJ friendly version – even if at least an EP – especially in today’s age of Ipod’s and Serato.

Despite these minor gripes, Caltroit is easily one of the most ambitious mixtape projects of the year, filled with original music created exclusively for this release. Both Black Milk and Bishop Lamont came with it, leaving fans eagerly watching their next moves. – D.T. Swinga

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