The hip-hop gods have smiled on Queens rapper Consequence, first by making him Q-Tip's cousin, then by dropping him all over A Tribe Called Quest's Beats, Rhymes And Life. Nevertheless, the rapper with the squirrelly flow, elaborate comic metaphors, and remarkable luck failed to capitalize on his association with one of rap's most revered acts. But he catapulted back into the limelight when Kanye West made him a charter member of the Kon Man crew, snagged him a guest spot on West's best-selling debut The College Dropout, and made him one of the first artists signed to West's Very Good Music imprint.
A goofy, lighthearted West pops up all over Take 'Em To The Cleaners, riding shotgun on nearly half the album as both a rapper and a producer. The title of "So Soulful" even feels like a theme song for West, who's only the first of a slew of guests. He brings along some heavy ammunition in the form of friends Common and Talib Kweli on "Wack N*ggas," a snotty, funny attack on the lyrically impaired. Consequence and West don't threaten to overshadow their legendary partners, but they do hold their own, which is no small feat.
Consequence and West also join forces with kindred spirit Little Brother on Cleaners' best song, "I See Now," a track whose gorgeous, soulful sound underscores just how much West's production style overlaps with that of fellow Jay-Z favorite 9th Wonder. The album's momentum peters out a bit toward the end, and it's further diluted by pointless skits and charmless sexual boasting. But the formidable chemistry between Consequence and West and the album's terrific production should inspire eager anticipation for the rapper's forthcoming major-label debut. Like a scrappy leadoff batter on a team full of sluggers, Consequence scores here largely on the strength of the heavy hitters behind him.