Black Rob returns to the music scene with his follow up to The Black Rob Report (2005) with Game Tested Streets Approved (2011). His first album released with independent label Duck Down Music, Game Tested Streets Approved, brings the gritty, hood rhymes that Black Rob is known for. This album stays true to the Harlem born MC's street persona with records like "Boiling Water," and "Up North." Rob does keep it radio friendly with the cuts, "Sand to the Beach," and the lead single "Celebration." This LP can definitely be played in any hood despite its large NY influence because it appeals to the struggles, situations, aspirations, and lifestyle of a traditional street dude. Could he be the "comeback kid" of 2011? Not likely. Despite a few bright spots and the records previously mentioned, this album probably won't make your "top rated" playlist on your iTunes.
With "Boiling Water," BR comes on strong and very boastful over a continuous, rising baseline. This track demonstrates the NY native's confidence and refusal to come in anything but the number one spot when he spits, "Second place the first loser, I ain't use to losing//Beef in the hood I'm staying 'cause I ain't use to moving." He also shows his dedication and commitment to obtain that number one spot in depicting a scruffy bearded Rob whose more focused on being the best than a growing beard when he says, "I could spit something hard or something soothing//Grind so hard my beard be growing like Rick Rubin." His confidence in his abilities goes even stronger during the chorus where he rhymes, "I spit it hotter than boiling water//Bet I make the next episode of Law&Order." But despite the first few bars and the chorus, this track is lukewarm at best. For the most part, there aren't any parts in the song that necessarily stand out, or even make you want to hit the rewind button to hear it again. He doesn't quite kill anything on this record, so hopes for making it on to "Law&Order" for this, aren't realized.
The record "Celebration," brings out that feel good music for everyone in the hood, from the lil shorties playing double dutch, to the grandmas sitting on park benches. The lead single for the album does Black Rob justice in his ability to paint a picture and create good music. Here he depicts a usual summer in the hood with basketball tournaments, cookouts, "neighborhood pools to keep cool," handheld fans, etc. The beat drops with a very soulful sound that BR spits to with perfection in showing what summer life in NYC is all about. An example of this is when he spits, "All the shorties jump roping, hydrants open, laughing joking//Lemonade, Puerto Rican/Dominican day parades, is fun for all ages." With this song, Black Rob tells everyone to go out and enjoy the weather and summer life of NYC.
"Up North" shines light on BR's experiences when he was locked up. He rhymes about the changes in people once they get "up north," from tough guys to singing queens. He spits, "I seen the roughest niggas call the cops up north//You a tough guy, why you ain't pop up north?" He depicts what its really like up north and how life really changes. From gang life, to visitors, etc, its BR shows that its a different beast up north.
Despite its numbing beats, BR does a decent job in providing some tracks that will grab the listener with his content after the second listen. Ultimately, this LP is not a game changer, but is worth a listen.
Rating: Borderline of 2.5 and 3 out of 5