Willoughby native Chris Black makes for an unlikely rapper. It's not just that he's white; rather, he lacks the kind of swagger we normally associate with most rappers. Welcome opens with the mild-mannered "Thank You for Understanding," a piano ballad on which Black raps about why he's more interested in writing about accomplishments than hopelessness. The album gets a bit heavier (and darker) with "Back At It," a track on which he takes aim at "haters." The attempts at braggadocio, however, seem forced here, but Black gets back on track with "City Lights." With its spoken-word intro, the song that pairs Black with guest rappers Tre Smith and J-Work comes off a bit like a Soul Coughing cut. And Black's slo-mo delivery in "Live 'n Dream" perfectly suits the song's contemplative mood. And on the final track, "For the Love the Game II," he teams up with backing singers Aaron Mittelo and April Fatica, whose soulful vocals provide a nice contrast to his boisterous raps. — Jeff Niesel
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