Black Milk

Caltroit
(Music House)

His name may not be familiar, but Bishop Lamont is becoming one of the craftiest MCs on the West Coast. He's released a series of buzz-building mix tapes since signing with Dr. Dre two years ago, the latest of which, Caltroit, is an impressive collaboration with producer/rapper Black Milk, a Fat Beats-signed crate-digger who may be Detroit's best bet since J Dilla passed. Straddling the increasingly nebulous divide between the "underground" and the "mainstream," Caltroit features appearances from a wide range of Motor City vets (Elzhi of Slum Village, Royce Da 5'9", Phat Kat) to subterranean left-coast staples (Ras Kass, Tash, Planet Asia) to Aftermath labelmates Busta Rhymes and Stat Quo. Lamont's mentor, Dre, even turns up on the coda for "On Top Now," big-upping his latest Aftermath prospects and reminding people for the 3,222nd time that they are "from the West Coast" and "on top." It's not until "Goatit" that you start to think that Dre's hyberbole may be accurate, with Milk supplying a stomping, Dilla-haunted beat full of icy Detroit grime and Lamont rapping like a desperate man fleeing a collapsing bridge. Backed by heartless organs, a rubber-band bass line, and wailing gospel pleas, Lamont showcases a rare combination of speed, clarity, and punch-line lyricism reminiscent of early Canibus, Big Punisher, or Dre's last great signee, Eminem. It's the best verse on the guest-laden affair, and enough to leave you hoping that Lamont's debut LP, The Reformation, finally sees the light of Dre.

 
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