King Tee's latest a raw, quirky success

By Tyrone Henry

Arizona Daily Wildcat

King Tee

King Tee IV Life

Priority Records

King Tee started in an era when "Compton" wasn't such a loaded word in the rap world. The name of this now-famous L.A. neighborhood evokes images that, depending on who you talk to, strengthened rap's growing appeal and versatility, or contributed to some creative stagnance by opening the door to not-so-creative successors of the "gangsta" rap hegemony.

While Tee never blew up on the level nationally of some of his neighbors, he has maintained a steady following among heads who've become fiends for his brand of "wino funk." From his debut in 1988, Act A Fool, he has shown staying power.

On King Tee IV Life, he keeps things raw, but shows the same quirkiness that he is recognized for like the roles he plays as two kids waitin' for his new record in "Advertisement," or the "Look, up in the sky," line from Underdog in the hook of "Super Nigga."

There are some surprises, too, such as the return of M.C. Breeze (you might remember his "L.A. Posse" from 1990). His powerful, crisp flow seems to have gotten more thunderous with five years of payin' dues, and he's serves notice on "Freestyle Ghetto": "Now it's time to blow up to the next mode/Make room for the kaboom/'Cause I'm about to explode ... I'm psychopathic like Manson/Ain't wit' the dancin'/But still, I get more Cheers than Ted Danson".

Tee's strength has always been his humbleness. He recognizes that he doesn't have the skills to carry an entire album, so he defers to others, introducing new talent in the process (like new protegee Nikke Nicole). The effect is an atmosphere like a rhyme cipher party, with everyone catching a little wreck, including the Alkaholiks and D.J. Pooh. "Duck" and "Down-Ass Loc" are strictly fast-forward material, but the album is strong and picks up steam as it goes.

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