The Family is a crew of acts made up of the groups Bonafide, Kin and Backhome, as well as solo artists Yagaboo and Zoe, with production by Eddie Stokes, who has worked with Arrested Development and Lucy Pearl. Primary vocalists Bonafide make the album's staple sound down-home hip-hop crossed with reggae. Kin tosses in fast, twisting, Goodie Mob-influenced rap. Backhome brings a pinch of R&B flavor to the mix, while Yagaboo and Zoe bring the broth to a simmer with some soul. Stokes stirs crisp, crunchy beats in with the varying vocal stylistics. The resulting amalgamation is something like mom's homemade meatloaf: It's hard to say exactly what you're eating at a given moment, but most bites are plenty tasty.
The Family's Southern-thug-meets-country-boy rhymes are refreshingly contrasted with reggae, dancehall and R&B infusions. From the beat-dropping, crunked-out "Bowz Up" to the harmonica-hooting, Dixie-crooning "Country Boy," to the Southern-fried R&B of "Why We Fightin'," 9.17 lays down a multi-faceted and arresting sound. Though creative tracks such as "Space High" and "We Blaze" ease into mainstream rap's topical comfort zone with trite takes on getting high and getting paid, they're followed by joints such as "Choose One" and "Grind it Out," which probe Southern ghetto-life with a sensitive eye. Southern Empire's strength, however, remains in its sharp, tightly hewn beats, which tend to cling-cling to you with more resonance than Cash Money's bling-bling bureaucracy can pump out.
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