another debut that shows promise

38th Street (So-Lo Jam)
Way 2 Real

By Kory Wilcoxson

I only had the chance to hear the Undaground Mafia once, when they opened for Public Enemy a few Christmases ago. If memory serves correctly, I liked the rough-edged rawness that I heard.

Fast-forward to the present, where the Mafia has undergone a transformation, shifting their operation center from Louisville to Atlanta and picking up the name Way 2 Real, one that better fits the music the group is now making.

The change in location and name has also brought a transformation of the group's — Richard "Bam" Carter's and Ramon "Bodie MC" Johnson's – music and attitudes. The songs are more reachable, the lyrics are more genuine and real than the gangsta talk of the Mafia.

There's good news and better news about 38th Street. The good news is the band's first single, "Tha Butterfly," is making noise in the industry, moving up the R&B and rap charts. The better news is that behind the dance gimmick is a solid song and much of the album follows suit.

Of the 13 songs on the disc, only five are new. The others are either remixes of Mafia songs or remixes of "Tha Butterfly." And the album should still be considered a strong debut.

"Southern Funk," one of the new jams, opens with a sweet R&B snippet, then kicks in to Bam's slammin' beat. Then Bodie swings in with his Ice Cube-style delivery, dropping lines like a pro. The duo's experience together pays off on several tracks, as Bam's groundwork elevates Bodie's stylings.

For a debut, 38th Street has none of the freshman slip-ups you'd expect. Way 2 Real has been there and the album is a debut in name only. If they can maintain the consistent quality of work they show in songs like the title track and "Tops Down," Louisville could well have another notch in its belt of locals made good.