Keak da Sneak

Deified (Koch)

Apparently no one told Oakland's reigning hoodstar about hyphy's demise. Fashionably late — by about two years — for his own movement, Keak da Sneak makes it seem like the party is just getting started on Deified, his first national release. Growling, whispering, slurring, rasping, wheezing, stutter-stopping, but always dropping game, Keak turns the 23-track, 77-minute marathon into one of the stronger Yay Area rap albums in years while inviting comparisons to Tupac's All Eyez on Me. In addition to cameos by a who's who of Yay Area bosses, Keak addresses concerns he's too "regional" by reaching out to Houston, Los Angeles, and New York City. Most of the collabs work, mainly because Keak chose fellas as gritty and grimy as he is: "19 Dummy" (with Daz Dillinger) one-ups the Federation's "18 Dummy"; remixed local hits "On Citas" and "That Go" are given fresh life by Paul Wall and Prodigy, respectively; and "All I Know" doesn't waste the talents of E-40 and Clyde Carson. Songs like "Hard Tops & Drops," "Ass Chauffeur," and "Blurpt" — a slang phrase derived from the sound of a police siren — attest to Keak's ambitions as a ridah. Yet he represents Too $hort's legacy as much as Pac's, as the album's best song, "Oakland," makes clear. Set to a sparse kick-drum-and-cowbell track reminiscent of $hort's "Dope Fiend Beat," the track comes off like an East Bay version of KRS-One's "South Bronx," with Eastmont Mall replacing the Patterson projects. Undeniably relevant and unabashedly ghetto, Deified reminds listeners of the similar social conditions that created both hip-hop and hyphy.

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