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Charizma and Peanut Butter Wolf - Big Shots

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Artist: Charizma and Peanut Butter Wolf

Album: Big Shots

Label: Stones Throw

Review date: Mar. 7, 2004

A budding lyrical kid named Charizma could have been much more than another poster child against senseless gun violence if only the hip hop community had ever been properly introduced. One spin through his long-awaited release, Big Shots, originally recorded with Peanut Butter Wolf between '91-'93, and it is painfully apparent that Charles Hicks, then a 19-year-old MC from San Jose, could have been among the ranks of early pioneers like the Fresh Prince, MC Lyte, De La Soul, Special Ed or perhaps even KRS-1 had his life not been tragically cut short.

Ten years after Hicks' passing, Peanut Butter Wolf, released their bittersweet collaboration on his Stones Throw label to much belated praise. PB Wolf obviously holds Charizma in high esteem, as his single, "My World Premier,” was their first release in 1996. On it he rhymes, "In a b-boy stance, I'm in this smog all alone / When I didn't have a mic I rapped on headphones." Indeed, Charizma can't easily be compared to other old-school MC's. His nubile bravado does conjure a teenage Big Daddy Kane, who sips on Martinelli's apple juice and sucks on sweets not exclusive to the corner store.

The album is comprised of a vast array of solid tracks from both a lyrical and production standpoint, but only "Jack the Mack" and "Red Light Green Light" were released during Hicks’ lifetime. It wasn’t until PB Wolf started Stones Throw that these songs truly had an opportunity to shine. "Here's a Smirk,” the best single from the album, hits hard with Charizma eloquently balancing his intellect with his bad-boy playa side while PB cuts it up with fast-paced, jazzy snippets reminiscent of Tribe's Low End Theory sound. "Tell You Something" could induce dancefloor karaoke with the object of your evening's affections, especially the call and response anthem (Charizma: "I think I wanna tell ya something, His lady: Well go on, tell me something). There are also a handful of charming songs devoted to the ladies seduced by Charizma’s b-boy charm.

Even as Hicks’ legacy hangs over the album, it must be known that Big Shots would not be nearly as memorable without PB Wolf's timeless production quality. "The style's deep even when we fall asleep / Dreaming of the usual...a rap beat," flows Hicks on "Methods,” a track so lovely and mellow that you would think it's sampled from DJ Shadow's Endtroducing, despite its creation almost four years prior.

Big Shots offers a fresh glimpse of the early days of hip hop, where bitches were still honeys, the niggas were just brothas, and the MC battles knew their boundaries were onstage. Some might call Charizma's flow dated amidst the current haze of uzi-style rapping. Personally, I think this album brings the best of both worlds – an MC with class and a DJ/producer with sass who created music worthy of an urban time capsule.

By Emily Huffman

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