City High

Booga Basement/Interscope/Universal
Ranking 7.5/10

City High might have forever remained in the pool of Wyclef Jean's groups-in-progress were it not for their first single, "What Would You Do." Instead, they're riding the mainstream success and chart topping of that single to individuality. Nonetheless, the trio of Robby Pardlo, Claudette Ortiz and Ryan Toby, jointly known as City High, owe much of their flight to success to Wyclef.

As executive producers of the album, Wyclef Jean & Jerry "Wonder" Duplessis provide City High with the production boost that they need. The nine tracks produced by this duo far outmatch the five tracks which they did not produce. As well, City High has an amazing ability to interweave real life stories of love, hardships, misguidance and despair into their beats. Which when complemented by their background R&B vocals and dope beats from Wyclef and the "Wonder", makes for a very influential album.

There is no doubt that the group's story telling is lead by Claudette Ortiz. The way that she is able to tell a story while keeping the beat and making things rhyme is just short of beautiful. This is skilfully demonstrated on the captivating first single, "What Would You Do", which speaks to anyone with a heart. Her story telling also shines on the upbeat and very political, "15 Will Get You 20." Watch for her flashy upbeat rap on "Cats And Dogs." The two boyz of the group combine to provide "So Many Things" with a feel that could easily be mistaken for Boyz II Men. "City High Anthem" deals with the turbulence and lack of motivation in our public school systems.

City High has put together an impressive debut, providing an interesting mix of story telling, R&B, and hip hop. The album's main downfalls were the non-Wyclef produced tracks and a few tracks such as "Best Friends" and "Sista" which seemed somewhat superficial, as they seemed to lack experience. If these obstacles can be overcome, City High has a very bright future ahead of them. Their lyrical gifts and ability to stimulate the mind helped make this album an above average debut worth checking out if you enjoy a mix of R&B, hip hop & story telling.

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This review was written July 14, 2001