[25 August 2006]
Raydar Ellis’ Late Pass opens with a “Preface” that finds Ellis waking up to a phone call from his label. Although the label dude sounds like a character from the Peanuts cartoon, we get the gist of the conversation from Ellis’ side of the phone: the label’s ready to hear his album. Unfortunately, the album’s not ready and he’s got two hours to deliver it. As it turns out, the songs on Late Pass (along with some really cool liner notes) constitute “the album”. What Raydar Ellis delivers is a strong, if slightly inconsistent, effort with major emphasis on creative beats, impressive flow, and witty content. On the first full track, “You Know The Name”, Ellis comes right out and says, “I’m doper and I just produce; I don’t even craft raps”. While Ellis is definitely a force behind the boards, don’t sleep on his skills as a rhymer. His smooth and confident cadence shines, whether he’s rapping over his own beats, like on “Pay Homage” and “Growth”, or when he’s flowing over beats from guest producers, like on “I 4 an I” (with Marty MacFly as producer), “3 Steps” (with Hezekiah doing the honors), and two versions of “Shut Sh*t Down” featuring Edo. G and Esoteric (one by 7L and the other by Clokwork). Ellis is at his best when he focuses his rhymes on concepts, rather than his rap prowess. “Sambo Song” finds him analogizing himself to a blackface performer, “Graffiti Rock” takes listeners through a history lesson on the art of graffiti, and “I 4 An I” delves into numerology and symbolism. Another favorite is “3 Steps”, wherein the production, the lyrics, and the guest vocalist (Vivica “Honeylungs” Hawkins) fire on all cylinders to create a masterpiece. Truth be told, Late Pass would be an instant classic, except for a few lackluster choruses and hooks (“If I Could Paint Your Picture” and “Applause” would be the worst offenders) and the two the throwaway tracks “D*ckrider” (a venomous rant against biters, music industry drones, and the like) and “Fat Chicks” (a politically incorrect chronicle of one man’s pleasures and pains in his relationship with his plus-sized girlfriend). Nevertheless, the album is entertaining and quite a treat for North Carolinians who remember Raydar Ellis from his days on local radio stations 102.1 JAMZ and 90.1 FM.