If the fans won’t come to the “real hip-hop”, then you’ll just have to bring it to ‘em. That could’ve been Prince Ali’s mindset for Curb Side Service, his 2007 long player of 20 diversified tracks that aim to please even the most cynical hip-hop listener. You’d have to be quite the cynic not to appreciate his effort, even the experimental bits, and even if you don’t love the entire work. Here, Prince Ali works overtime to meld his nimble flow over hints of mystical eastern influences (“The Path - East Bay Remix”, “Floating Lotus”), jazz infusions (“Building”, “Stay Chopped”, “War Hounds”), and psychedelic backdrops.
Lest you think nothing’s going on here besides laidback fun and funky West Coast vibes (and what’s wrong with that?!), Curb Side Service‘s execution makes it worthy of more than a cursory listen. First, there’s Prince Ali’s vocals, which are low and gruff like Ice-T or MC Eiht, accompanied by a delivery that’s surprisingly Snoop Dogg-smooth. On paper, you’d think his voice would clash with the music, especially the jazzier sounds, but it seldom does. Second, there’s a slight thematic tension between Prince Ali’s rhymes about peace and spirituality (“purify the body so the spirit ain’t distant”) and his rhymes about being a superior emcee. The mixture intrigues more than it confounds. Better hooks, overall, would have enhanced the set, but guest spots from none other than Keith Murray, Planet Asia, A-Plus, and others help to balance out any alleged deficiencies in composition.