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One Be Lo’s acronymic ’07 release, The R.E.B.I.R.T.H., which stands for “Real Emcees Bring Intelligent Rhymes to Hip-Hop,” says it all: forget hooks, forget fat club beats, forget phony rappers — this is how authentic hip-hop is supposed to sound. (An interesting aside, each of the lyricist’s proper albums boasts complex wordplay: Look up S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. and S.T.I.L.L.B.O.R.N. when you get a chance.)
One Be Lo’s style — clean and clear and under control — screams “conscious independent,” with lyrics to match. In “Keep it Rollin’,” the emcee, cruising through city streets, raps, “Turn the key, let the engine rumble / Make a left, make a right, everywhere I see my people struggle / You can make a decent hustle but you need the muscle / Because in the food chain the strong eat the weak amongst you.” Couple this ability to rhyme with One Be Lo’s acute sense for making beats — or picking producers (there are nine different mix-masters on R.E.B.I.R.T.H.) — and you’ve got an indie artist covering every niche of the hip-hop spectrum. Take the album’s closing track, “Hip-Hop Heaven,” on which the emcee meshes old-school lines about his days as a b-boy with an in-vogue drum-and-bass pattern.
In claiming that all rappers bring smart rhymes, One Be Lo sets a self-imposed high bar — one that he gracefully clears with his classic approach to underground hip-hop.
— By Entertainment Editor Chris French