Maino

If Tomorrow Comes... (Atlantic)

A Brooklyn-bred MC who reportedly taught himself his craft while serving 10 years in prison, Maino rhymes with understandable urgency. The majority of the songs on If Tomorrow Comes... are ferocious inspirationals rapped over movie soundtrack-style beats. Which is fine: Maino is a utilitarian rapper who's not particularly quick or experimental. But his gritty flow is enhanced on his debut by hot beats from folks such as Swizz Beatz, Just Blaze and JUSTICE League—and you won't find songs bigger than "All the Above" and "Million Bucks" anytime soon.

As an album, though, If Tomorrow Comes... doesn't really work. Maino doesn't have enough variation in his style, too many of the songs sound alike, and the narrative skits throughout are not especially believable or interesting. (He cryptically informs us that his time was for a "drug-related kidnapping" and that he "never wanted to be a product of my environment; I always wanted my environment to be a product of me.") Still, in an era when the traditional long-version album has all but disappeared as an art form, it's hard to hold these complaints against him. If you've got "All the Above" blasting from your speakers, you can't really go wrong.

 
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