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(Quannum Projects)
Many of the Bay Area’s brainiest rap artists to emerge over the past 19 years—Lyrics Born, DJ Shadow, the Blackalicious duo of Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel—have come from the Quannum Projects collective. Lateef the Truthspeaker does, too, but he’s kept a lower profile, while collaborating with Born (as Latryx) and with both halves of Blackalicious. His relative obscurity should end with the first record issued solely under his name. Produced by a posse of his longtime pals, the disc sounds amazing—lushly melding funk, synth-pop, and electro-rap—and paints an evocative picture of East Bay street life. Over the noir-jazz rhythms of “Say What You Want,” Lateef reports the truelife nightmare of his cousin’s shooting being avenged by another cousin. In “So Sexy,” he’s the late-night player, offering salacious come-ons in a
hushed whisper. “Oakland” conveys all he finds good about his city, with shout-outs to AC Transit, Everett & Jones, “corporate businesswomen freaky in the sack,” and plentiful cannabis. Already known as an accomplished rapper and singer, Lateef proves to be a fascinating lyricist, too. A