Bishop Lamont and Black Milk

Caltroit (Music House)

While the name isn't familiar, Bishop Lamont is quickly becoming one of the craftiest MCs on the West Coast. He's released a series of buzz-building mixtapes since signing with Dr. Dre two years ago, the latest of which, Caltroit, is an impressive collaboration with producer/rapper Black Milk, a Fat Beats-signed crate digger who might be Detroit's best bet since J Dilla passed. Straddling the increasingly nebulous divide between the "underground" and the "mainstream," Caltroit features guest appearances from a wide range of Motor City vets (Elzhi of Slum Village, Royce Da 5'9", Phat Kat) to subterranean left-coast staples (Ras Kass, Tash, Planet Asia) to Aftermath labelmates Busta Rhymes and Stat Quo. Lamont's mentor, Dre, even turns up on the coda for "On Top Now," big-upping his latest Aftermath prospects and reminding people for the 3,222nd time that they are "from the West Coast" and "on top." But it's not until "Goatit" that you actually start to think that Dre's hyberbole might be accurate, with Milk supplying a stomping, Dilla-haunted beat full of icy Detroit grime and Lamont rapping like a desperate man fleeing a collapsing bridge. Backed by heartless organs, a rubber-band bass line, and wailing gospel pleas, Lamont showcases a rare combination of speed, clarity, and punch-line lyricism reminiscent of early Canibus, the late Big Punisher, or Dre's last great signee, Eminem. Not only is it the best verse on the guest-laden affair; it's one of the better ones this year — and certainly enough to leave you hoping that Lamont's debut LP, The Reformation, and the long-awaited Detox finally see the light of Dre.

 
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