Far from the days when Stuart Scott dropped every famous rap catchphrase on the regular, it’s now a clear indication that you’ve entered the orbit of pop culture when your lead single, “Boom Bap for the Radio,” receives several on-air boasts from new-school ESPNEWS/ SportsCenter anchor John Buccigross. On Heat Writer II, the new street album from rapper HaLo (pronounced “hollow”), 9th Wonder unveils his latest addition to a bevy of artists on his IWW/ Jamla imprint. HaLo’s days as Kooley High’s homeboy are over; his patience has finally led him here, as the last “official” member to be signed to IWW/ Jamla.
As on many other recent mixtapes, street albums and LPs from the Jamla family, we get neck-breaking contributions from the super-producer assemblage, The Soul Council. Whether the crew’s production is slowly advancing ahead of its emcees’ abilities is up for argument. In any event, “2Ways (Not a Damn Thing)” showcases producer Amp, The Soul Council’s best answer to its other beat captain, Khrysis. Unfortunately, on “2Ways,” HaLo hits the proverbial glass ceiling, spraying Windex instead of heat rocks. When HaLo’s not mashing you in the face with his punch lines (often accompanied by the self-rewarding “uh-oh, I bet you can’t believe I just said that wonderful line” pauses and extra breaths), his rhymes are best ventilated on airy 9th Wonder platforms like “So Vibrant,” the Silk-inspired “Boom Bap for the Radio” and the Khrysis-produced opener, “Topic of Conversation.” Offerings like “Mr. Ben Ready,” however, prove that too much play space often turns HaLo into a delusional wreck: “So nice in your top five, I should count for two,” he says, somehow both convincing and wildly unbelievable at the same timethe infamous rap paradox that needs our encouragement.