Classic records – the relatively few transcendent, timeless albums that are as great if not better each time that they’re heard – often warrant their exalted status because the music is innovative or superlative or both. Those LPs often will engender a yearning for repeated listening, as though their owners are subjected to an inescapable sonic spell. Back Again is not one of those efforts, however it is a fine album, and its adequate, pleasant songs are precisely illustrative of why listeners may mistakenly neglect this album after the standard, initial heavy rotation.
As the title indicates, Mr. Cheeks, who the government calls Terrance Kelly, is back on his second solo LP with a varied sound that may fully divorce him from his Lost Boyz roots. Cheeks has not sold out or left his musical comfort zone, but the Boyz’s Legal Drug Money – were they selling pharmaceuticals? – sound, exemplified by “Lifestyles of the Rich and Shameless,” is officially dead, replaced by tracks like the smooth, R&B-laced “Crush on You,” one of Again’s better songs.
Cheeks indulges his gangster on “The Wire,” a soulful song carried by its simple baseline and Four Tops sample, but the empathetic nature revealed on Money’s “Renee” seems to have influenced Kelly during the production of this album, evidenced by two collaborations with laid back Floetry, the sober and remorseful “I Apologize,” and a generally reflective tone. This latter emotion resonates throughout the record, and Cheeks’ attempts to party on tracks like the P. Diddy-produced “Pimpalicious” sound hollow and unconvincing.
The record’s best song is undoubtedly “Reminisce 03′,” a remake of the classic Pete Rock and CL Smooth joint that features That Horn Riff, one of hip-hop’s defining sounds and most-recognized samples. However, the beat on “Reminisce” is the only one that will stay with listeners because the rest of the music on Again, while momentarily engaging and strong enough to make one stay with the album, is quite standard. From generic-sounding samples like the one found on “The Hussle” to the boring bongo drums of “Hands High,” the beats over which Cheeks flows are not terribly memorable.
There is nothing particularly wrong with Back Again, however there also is nothing particularly noteworthy about the album either. In a contemporary hip-hop realm cluttered by the talentless and the superfluous, there is definitely room for Mr. Cheeks. Unfortunately, there are also plenty of artists whose music will engage listeners more than that on Again.
Rating: 3 Stars