Dilla contributes five tracks, but the work of up-and-coming producers Nick Speed, Young RJ, and Black Milk is just as impressive. Other guests include SV’s Elzhi and T3, Truth Hurts, Melanie Rutherford, Fat Ray, Loe Louis and Guilty Simpson. Rather than pursuing cameos and features from overexposed stars, Phat Kat chose instead to work with his peoples from the D, figuring “the people I got on my album is just as hot as people that’s out”.
As a result, the album feels more like a collaborative effort than an artificially assembled project. On the opening track, “Nasty Ain't It”, Dilla sets up Phat Kat with a down ‘n’ dirty, futuristic funk groove, over which the MC spits, “real talk, shed light on you when it’s still dark / ride the brand-new wheels off while you still walk”. On “Cold Steel”, another Dilla-produced doozy, Phat Kat and Elzhi trade rugged stanzas which make the line, “it don’t get no liver than this”, seem highly believable.
Black Milk holds down both production and mic duties on “Danger”, also featuring T3, a track which warns, “it’s time to change the game up”. On “Nightmare”, Phat Kat teams with Guilty Simpson to tell a criminal-minded tale of hustle and entrepreneurship, “making deals while I’m chilling in my lounge chair”. Though Phat Kat likes grimy beats to complement his grimy flows, “Lovely” shows he can adapt to a smooth beat (by Young RJ) with equal finesse, as Melanie Rutherford adds mellow neo-soul vocals.
“I let it percolate before I appropriate / and before I hit the stage make sure my dough be great”, he spits on “Pressure”, while "Truth Hurts" cops a Cleopatra Jones-type attitude on the chorus: “don’t walk up on me / cause I got pressure”. In the vein of EPMD’s “Jane”, Phat Kat continues his own tradition with “True Story Pt. 2”, an appropriately based on a true story. He says, “I’ma always have a true story on my albums”.
With its mix of original, streetwise rhymes that fall somewhere between gangsta, conscious, and backpack, grooves that can take you from the gutter to the VIP and back, and production that innovates rather than imitates, Carte Blanche is like no Detroit album you’ve heard before. It maintains the standard for excellence set by Phat Kat’s cohorts Dilla and Slum Village, but with a much more hardcore thrust.
Asked what the album’s title means to him, Phat Kat says with a laugh, “Absolute authority. Full power”, adding, “It’s a good thing”. With this album, he says, he’s daring people to, “take responsibility for their own actions”. As for himself, “Every time I step in the booth, I’m trying make some classic shit”, he promises.
Detroit Hip-Hop appears to be a mainstay on the mantle of Hip-Hop's elite cities. Phat Kat has been in the mix before it was on anyone's radar and associated with all the major players thereafter. With Carte Blanche, Phat Kat delivers an album that gives us all we've come to appreciate about Detroit MCs: it is intricate but still intimate, hardcore but still lyrical. Along the way, we are introduced to the up-and-coming torchbearers of Detroit Hip-Hop and we are also given another chance to vibe with a fallen legend.
- Cold Steel Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rz0XZl2Lkx4
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