soberingly mature Christian rap

Tha Hoodlum's Testimony (Metro One)

By Robert Gruber

As the title might suggest, Tha Hoodlum's Testimony is T-Bone's most personal record to date _ at times disturbingly so. Arguably the biggest star in Christian rap, T-Bone made his bones with a rapid fire rap technique and tongue-twisting rhymes about his very real life on the streets, combined with production by some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Muffla and DJ Pooh.

There's no clownin' here, his third time out, as T-Bone relates his struggles with critics, fair-weather friends, the music industry and most of all, the traumatic memories of a brutal attack in '94 that nearly killed him. Fans of T's earlier work may be put off by the somber tone of Testimony, and that would be a shame because this is by far his most soberingly mature and solid effort yet. T-Bone is at the top of his game on cuts like "Demon Executor," "Flock Together" and "Keep on Praisin'." "Hurt and Pain" reads almost like one of David's darker psalms, while "Straighten It Out" calls for peace and repentance, "from the east side to tha west side."

Although marred slightly by overt attacks on other Christian rappers, T-Bone's Testimony is the album he needed to make, perhaps to help put the past in the past. The influence of such artists as Scarface, Snoop Doggy Dogg and especially 2Pac is evident, but for the most part, Testimony finds T-Bone coming closest to establishing a style all his own.loud, heavy and