Album Review by Garrett Caples
San Francisco Bay Guardian January 3, 2007
Following two superb, albumlike mixtapes — Early Morning Shift with the Demolition Men and The Real World: West Oakland with DJ Fresh — On Behalf of the Streets is J-Stalin's so-called official debut, produced by Tha Mekanix, a.k.a. Dotrix4000 and Kenny Tweed. While the East Oakland producers have dropped album-length bombs in the past, Streets is the first release over which they've had total control, and the result is one of the most individual Bay Area rap albums since the region got hot again. With their ultrasynthetic sonic palette and penchant for minor chord filigree, Tha Mekanix are among the most distinctive producers in the area, making music that works with hyphy (check "The Function") but also is its own thing.Much credit, of course, goes to the pint-size rapper with the gravelly voice whose self-harmonized hooks lend real poignancy to semiautobiographical tales of life as a young d-boy in West Oakland's Cypress Village: "A long time ago, man, I was told / If you got money, man, crack you sold," Stalin warbles on "I Was Told." Stalin is most surprising with his unabashed flair for R&B, evident on "Party Jumpin' " and the sensuous "Fuck U," on which the young playa engages in Prince-like seduction over the fattest, roundest bass thump in recent memory. With the right mix of local dons (Keak Da Sneak, Mistah FAB) and Stalin's own formidable crew (Shady, Jonah, Maybeck), Streets is state-of-the-art Oakland hip-hop from a rapper who's only just begun.