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Review: Tyrese - "Alter Ego"

Tender vs. Tough

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating

By

Review: Tyrese -

Album cover © J Records.

In a move that's virtually unprecedented in all of music, the singer Tyrese has released a double-CD featuring Ty singing his usual tender love songs, while the second disc is a collection of harder-edged hip-hop tracks featuring rap vocals by Tyrese's rapper alter-ego, Black-Ty. The 2-CD set, called Alter Ego naturally, proves two things: first, when it comes to singing, Ty is still a relevant artist, even though he's focused more on acting than singing in recent years. And second, when it comes to rhyming, he was right to keep this "talent" locked away for years while he focused more on modeling, singing and acting.

Catering to the Ladies

On his fourth album, Tyrese Gibson seems intent on proving many things, among them: a) that he's still a relevant artist, even though he's focused more on acting than singing in recent years; b) he still has the talent to create successful R&B records; c) Even though he sings love songs, that doesn't mean he's soft and he's a b-boy at heart; and d) he's got enough rhyme skills to fill an entire CD. Well, mission accomplished - sort of.

First, Ty definitely hasn't lost any of the mojo that's made ladies swoon from Birmingham, Alabama to Birmingham, England and beyond. His voice is still as sweet as honey and as cool & smooth as freshly-applied cocoa butter. Although it's been four years since his last official album (not including two hip-hop mixtapes he released earlier in 2006), Tyrese shows no signs of rust or of being out of touch with the ever-evolving world of contemporary music.

Every track on the R&B CD caters to the ladies, with some songs being quite good. The first single, "One," about a man pledging his heart to a lover and vowing to be forever faithful, is sure to find its way into weddings in 2007 and beyond. And the Usher-esque "Turn Ya Out," which is produced by and features Lil Jon, is sexy midtempo bedroom romp music. Also, "Morning After" is an exquisite expression about the euphoric feeling that comes with waking up after a night of passion - and then engaging in some more passion. And the zodiac-inspired R. Kelly-Tyrese duet "Signs of Love Makin' Part II" is maybe the R&B portion's best-written song.

Same Old Song

Photo © J Records.

The problem with Tyrese's songs is a lack of diversity. Nearly all of his R&B songs are about being in love or making love, which obviously limits him, especially since those subjects have been overdone for the past quarter-century or so.

Many songs are beyond cliched, such as the begging "Come Back to Me Shawty," and a few are just downright tacky, like "Better to Know," where Ty sings about how it's okay to sleep with other people as long as everyone's up front about it. Yeah. Okay.

Another thing is that he doesn't expand his sound or vision at all. The same Tyrese you heard on his debut single, "Sweet Lady," is the exact same Tyrese of today. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing, but redoing the same things on four straight R&B albums gets old. Which is where the hip-hop portion of Alter Ego comes in.

Remember when R. Kelly and Jay-Z teamed up for those two (completely mis-titled) Best of Both Worlds albums? Well, Tyrese aims for a one-man version of this with Alter Ego's rap disc. On his hip-hop material, Ty walks a fine line, trying to win over young male fans while at the same time not alienating his female fanbase.

Overall, Ty's rapping works on only three songs, "Fly Away," featuring Kurupt, the humorously melancholy "Broke A** Ni***s" and the title track, which are all pretty excellent.
We won't get into an in-depth analysis of Black-Ty's rhyme style, but his flow is reminiscent of a few great LA emcees - including 2Pac and Ras Kass - only slower and less polished. But truthfully, if Black-Ty never rhymed again, few people would probably miss him.

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