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Pitch Black 

Pitch Black Law (Universal)

The hold Roc-A-Fella has had on the hip-hop industry in general and New York in particular is long and remarkable. But this is allegedly the post-Jigga era, where Jay-Z languishes in retirement and lesser MCs like Cam'ron and Memphis Bleek try to hold the fort. Certainly, Jigga's return is a foregone conclusion -- but while he lays out, it's not out of line to view the debut of a new Enycee crew as a gauntlet thrown.

Especially after hearing "It's All Real" from Brooklyn quintet Pitch Black. With soaring string samples provided by DJ Premier, it's an exhilarating first single, its hand already extended for the keys to the city. And Pitch Black Law backs the tight-knit flows of D.G., Devious, Fast, Zakee, and G.O.D. with similarly ambitious anthems; from fellow Brooklynite Busta Rhymes' manic cameo on "R U Ready 4 This" to the Saturday playground cool of "Good Times," this is an album hot-wired with the big, brash spirit of the Big Apple.

The rush of the half-dozen potential hits obscures the fact that none of the five MCs makes his mark individually on this battle-rhyme-heavy set, and that other than Primo's two joints, there aren't really any beats that will raise your eyebrows. Still, when they demand, "Who's gonna stop my team from rising, shining?" you're curious to hear the Roc's response.


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