After earning a spot in the one-hit-wonder hall of fame as the frontman for House Of Pain, Everlast surprised critics and audiences by reinventing himself as an introspective, socially conscious troubadour on his hit solo debut, 1998's Whitey Ford Sings The Blues. An uneven collection of roughneck hip-hop and bluesy barroom rock and folk, Whitey Ford went multiplatinum largely on the strength of "What It's Like," an empathetic neo-folk song that was one of the few songs by a hip-hop artist to stake out a pro-choice position. Though sincere and ambitious, Whitey Ford simply wasn't all that good, and "What It's Like" and "Ends," for all their noble intentions, came off as hopelessly simplistic, heavy-handed, and musically inert. Bolstered by the critical and commercial success of Whitey Ford, Everlast chose to go even darker and more eclectic on his follow-up, Eat At Whitey's, eschewing message songs for large doses of morbid self-reflection and gloomy meditations on death. Everlast's pretensions and ambition still outstrip his talent, however, and the distance between the two makes Eat At Whitey's both intriguing and frustrating. Everlast wears his heart on his sleeve throughout the album, singing about love gone awry ("Black Coffee," "Babylon Feeling," "Love For Real"), mortality ("I Can't Move," "We're All Gonna Die," "Graves To Dig"), and cryptic racial politics ("Black Jesus"), but like a defensive tackle trying his hand at ballet, he's far too clumsy and limited a singer and songwriter for the delicate material he attempts. His efforts to blur genre boundaries, however commendable, prove unsuccessful as well. When Zion I melds hip-hop with skittering drum-and-bass rhythms, it sounds like the natural next step in hip-hop's quicksilver evolution. But when Everlast experiments with drum-and-bass rhythms on "Babylon Feeling," it just sounds silly and random. If his talent ever catches up with his ambition, Everlast could be great, but he's set the bar so high that such rewards seem highly unlikely.