[CD Review] Guilty Simpson, 'Ode to the Ghetto' (Stones Throw)

Byron “Guilty” Simpson had long been J Dilla's guilty pleasure, a thuggish Detroit MC whose whiplash style bugged out the street cred of Obie Trice with the bullying lyrical whoop-ass of D12's Bizarre. Simpson's cameos on Dilla and Madlib's Champion Sound and standout ruffneck rhyming on Dilla's posthumous The Shining showed promise; Ode to the Ghetto fulfills it, with Guilty's unapologetic gunnin'-and-grabbin' style, framed by exceptional production from Madlib, Oh No, Denaun Porter (a.k.a. D12's Kon Artis) and Black Milk, plus a Dilla track—16 in all, with many less than three minutes.

Madlib's recent stylistic turns have left his sound stuck between Bollywood and Bedrock, but his feet-dragging, helium-Hindi beat for opener “American Dream” couldn't be more perfect for Guilty to lay his gangster m.o. over: “One black'll leave another red for green.” “Robbery” is a little campier, with Porter's Psycho-strings-laden beat under Guilty cracking a smile with “I'm comin' in your pet shop, spread the word/Pet shop.” And the Pharrell-ish “Kinda Live” is, well, ish.

“Getting Bitches” is classic boasting and toasting about “tryin' to get hood rich/So miss me with all of that bullshit”—which must account for it being just more than two minutes. The Dilla track “I Must Love You” shows Guilty has a heart and can sing a hook. But it's Oh No's neon synths on “Footwork” and the dope title track (“Been so many places and still come back”) and Black Milk's sharper snares on “My Moment” that give Guilty's lumbering lyrical rope-a-dope a chance to step out from behind the screw-faced beats and really swing. These tracks prove that a thug-rap footnote can command his own chapter among Motown hip-hop royalty. Ode, indeed.

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