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  The Last Street Preacha
Artist: T-Bone 
Label: Flicker/Boneyard Records 
Length: 17 tracks/61:33

In the ten years since Christian rap pioneer T-Bone released his first album, Redeemed Hoodlum, the ground that he broke has quickly moved out from under him. Rap music has experienced a monumental mainstream uprising and is no longer just the voice of the streets, but is picked up by people from all walks of life, and all races. This is what makes the success of the San Francisco MC's fourth album, The Last Street Preacha even more remarkable. The album is marked by many of the same things that have made T-Bone's past efforts so appealing: tight, hard-hitting raps, complex layered production courtesy of Chase Gigante, and a no-compromise message bent on one thing: bringing the Great Commission to street level. Despite sticking to the same musical formula and message, T-Bone's lyrical skill and personality shine through as always. 

It is clear from the first instrumental beats of "Intro" and the rhymes of "Nuttin 2 Somethin'" T-Bone is making it known that he has considered the cost before setting out into the market again. "All kinds of people said we'd never make it. Tell all the haters, perpetrators, and infiltrators, forget about it. We in this thing for life." The California sun and sand are the catalyst for bringing out the West Coast flavor with sweet trippy keyboard effects and funky percussion on tracks like "Up on Game" and "Ride Wit Me." Deeper than this picture of his home, T-Bone is more concerned with the darker side, through tracks like "Conversion" or "Last Street Preacha." T-Bone pulls no punches; on "Up on Game," he blasts rappers making their money from music glorifying violent lifestyles, "I ain't about this hip-hop no more; I'm 'bout the wino cleaning out the liquor store." It is clear that though times have changed, T-Bone is still concerned with bringing the Christian message to the streets. 

T-Bone is most at home, however, spitting rhymes fast and furious, which makes for moments of pure amazement, like in the middle of "Wipe Your Tears," when Bone busts out a scorching rap en Espanol in the middle of an already stellar verse in English. Even without these outbursts, he exhibits a nice flow throughout the record, which shows he's a polished MC who knows how to work grooves and tempo changes with the best of them. Sometimes the references are a little tired, but T-Bone's clever enough to turn them around, sliding "wild wild West" into "'cuz where I'm from, you need a bullet-proof vest."

Though the production creativity doesn't always work to the record's advantage--some of T-Bone's hard-hitting lyrical approach is lost among the versatility of the album--it remains a showcase for Christian rap, as grounded in truth as it is in the fundamentals of hip-hop. 

Glenn McCarty 3/22/2001

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