Broken Silence – RBX

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Truth be told, RBX isn’t really breaking any real “silence” with this LP. On the one hand, his trademark growl has been in the deep background for more than a decade, following his high profile collaborations with Dr. Dre on The Chronic. However, he never left the mic alone entirely — there was a guest spot on Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP, and a smattering of other appearances. Still, no one could really be blamed for wondering where RBX is at these days.

If Broken Silence is an answer, then it seems RBX is pretty much “still the same old G” (to quote a familiar source). Which is generally a good thing. The basic formula here is RBX’s standout vocals — an Xzibit-like timbre spiced with the comedic phrase-play of a “Woo Ha!!” era Busta Rhymes over slightly updated West Coast stomp music provided by producers LD and DJ Rhettmatic.

Not exactly a deft lyricist (though thoroughly enjoyable), RBX mostly boasts and tough talks his way through these 16 tracks, letting occasional guest vocalists like Ariano and LMNO handle the topical relief pitches: jabs at the Bush regime and some commentary on Hurricane Katrina. But that’s what works. When X steps outside the lines and changes up — sub-par tales of female conquest on “She’s Sexy”, the misplaced, dancehall tinged “Sunshine” — the results are often mediocre.

So, ultimately, it’s left to the producers to keep things on the straight and narrow. And they generally do just that. The beats produced by LD, in particular (“Broken Silence”, “Echoes of My Mind”, “Bounce to This”, “Free”), seem to gel with RBX’s heavy-handed approach (though Rhettmatic nearly steals the show in the last half of the album with his madrigal, Pete Rock reminiscent production on “Stop That”). It’s not enough to erase all memory of the album’s obvious blemishes, but it does prove that, with the right backing, RBX can still do his part to hold down the Left Coast.