Paul Westerberg comes to town-this time with a band.
Lost and Found
The Fresh Prince became a unique star in the world of hip-hop by speaking for the other side of the streets: as the voice of brothers who like school, never thought about selling drugs, and have dinner at home with their parents. Since Yo! MTV Raps and Lady B's Street Beat till now, Smith has asserted black life isn't just poverty and ignorance.
Seventeen years after He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper, Smith releases Lost and Found, an entire CD of relevant hip-hop music. While Jazzy Jeff has never dropped the ball as a producer or DJ, Smith has spent a little too much time competing with other rappers. This time he focuses creatively on himself.
Lost and Found opens with "Here He Comes," an exciting track that samples the beats and sound effects from the original '60s Spider-Man cartoon. Smith honors the old-school rule stating that if you use a beat that well-known and loved, you absolutely have to bring hot lyrics. He pulls it off.
On this CD Smith thought about what type of music would make him happy. This formula works as well today as it did in '89. On "Mr. Niceguy" he says Wendy Williams and others who claim to report on his personal life need to get a life of their own.
But the album's hit is "Tell Me Why" with Mary J. Blige, a song about Smith's struggle to explain Sept. 11 and the war in Iraq to his son. This track is the most passionate one Smith has recorded in his career. Mary J. should get him to use his labelmate Jadakiss on the remix.
Smith's originality shines on "Ms. Holy Roller," about a friend who gets on his nerves after she finds Jesus. (Why did it take an MC so long to make this record?) What's missing is at least one track with Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff going back and forth and addressing MCs and DJs trying to do what they do. The block party-style tracks are part of what made both his first two LPs classic.
The beats here are infectious, which is good, but the album works best when Smith asserts on tracks like "Lost & Found" that hip-hop is suffering from everybody trying to out-gangsta each other.
Lost and Found depicts the life of a mature, successful and intelligent black man. It's not another CD about rich men acting like they enjoy selling drugs and hoping somebody will shoot them. Smith did a great job rebuilding on this project. Definitely find a place for Lost and Found in your collection. A- (Raymond Tyler)