Coffee Nods

Grown (Hardcore Casual)

Part of the first generation of hip-hop fans now approaching middle age are suburban guys who balance family time and Frank-the-Tank weekends, guys still blasting hip-hop but doing so from minivans and sensible sedans. Coffee Nods main man Ben "Benisanna" Rogers speaks for them.

With a hint of reluctance, Ben leaves behind all-night parties to embrace middle-class adult life in the title track, surprised and proud to see his recently deceased father staring back from the mirror. In "Slow Down," he ostensibly gives life advice to a young man but uses the talk to brag about his Texas hold 'em skills. "Babygate," with superior guest verses from Chucky Sly and Tahiti, vents about the stress of being asked to be a dad before you're ready.

But dragging down the album are funny-only-once skits and preachy songs that lose appeal quickly. The heavy-handed "Decisions" recalls a friend whose demons dragged him into homelessness but offers only the most obvious truths: make good choices, don't get hooked on drugs. The oddball humor and witty pop-culture references Ben's known for as half of KTCK-1310 AM's Ben and Skin are in surprisingly short supply.

Despite funky guest production from the likes of beat Jedis Ch0 and Symbolyc 1, and despite his polished flow, Ben's voice isn't appealing enough to sustain a 20-song LP despite its thematic consistency. Instead, standout songs should be cherry-picked for mix CDs and MP3 playlists. Create a soundtrack for any situation—poker night, midlife birthdays, baby-mama drama—and a Coffee Nods track will fit it like a dress code-mandated suit on a grown-ass man.

 
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