The Boy Blesst: Charmicidle
Like a growing number of Baltimore rappers, the Boy Blesst has spent much of the last few years in Atlanta, trying to jumpstart his career in the rap industry's southern epicenter rather than merely building a buzz at home. As a consequence, though, shockingly consistent mixtapes such as 2006's Lockdown and last year's Lockdown II: In My Skin never really got the attention they wwdeserved around here. So his new album, Charmicidle, arrives both as an announcement of his return to Baltimore and a bid for some overdue hometown love.
Between the songs, Charmicidle features many of the clichés that plague seemingly every other local underground hip-hop release, particularly clips of dialogue from The Wire, recitations of the city's murder statistics, and awkwardly scripted "interview" skits. But when it gets past the filler and lets the music do the talking, Charmicidle is damn near flawless. The beats are provided by a large cast of producers, including Baltimore rap mainstays Banga Bill and Street Heat, and Imahj steals the show with three of the album's best tracks, particularly the symphony of bells, bass, and tire screeches on "Who Got It."
Blesst's default tone is gruff and streetwise, but his lyrics are simply too sophisticated and writerly to allow him to hide behind an "I'm not a rapper" artifice, densely packing internal rhymes and alliteration into not just verses, but choruses. Even a by-the-numbers capitalist fantasy like "When I Get Rich" has a refreshing level of warmth derived from Blesst going into greater detail than the usual vague promises to give back to the hood. For all his hopeful nods toward a rags-to-riches destiny, one can't help but keep in mind how inhospitable hip-hop's current climate is to clever East Coast MCs making unpretentiously autobiographical music. But if Blesst never beats the odds to stake a claim on stardom, make no mistake, it's as much our loss as it is his.