In the 1990s, every rap album had mellow bangers buried in the tracklist. Some were for the ladies; others, like the Nas gem "Black Girl Lost," waxed didactic. All relieved the anxiety that hip-hop otherwise induces. David Dallas specializes in such message-laden breezy listening.
The great New Zealand rap hope cuts reclined boom-bap that reminds me more of L.L. Cool J than Eminem or Asher Roth, and without ever getting corny. Regardless of how naughty or nice the land down under the land down under may be, the last thing heads want are rugged Kiwi rhymes. Dallas delivers nothing but sweet panache, from the soul-kicked "Ain't None Left" to the anthemic "Like Me."
Since he has clear control of his mic device, it would be a bonus to hear him charge harder; to gauge by his performance at South by Southwest this year, the kid absolutely has adequate gusto. I can't predict whether Dallas — who plays the CMJ Music Marathon in NYC next month — will penetrate the American consciousness. But with the right money and marketing, he could easily become world hip-hop's white Fabolous.