by Rachel Swan
Widely considered one of the most promising turf rappers in the Bay Area, West Oakland's J. Stalin was cursed with the kind of face that aunties and grandmothers would deem ripe for pinching: round and boyish, with doughy cheeks and sloe eyes that seem locked in a perpetual smile. Despite the odds, Stalin managed to develop a convincing rap persona and inhabit it: On most of his tracks the emcee comes off as a criminally-minded, angel-faced thug with a gat and a severe anger management problem.
His video "Let's Get It On" opens with a grainy camcorder pan over the rapper's desktop (stunna shades, plastic pill bottle, empty box of Trojans), followed by close-ups of this girl with a booty, then that girl's booty, then that other booty over there. These images have absolutely nothing to do with the next three minutes and fifteen seconds, which show Stalin rolling around Acorn projects in a zip-up fur coat and black beanie, talking about his childhood "on the crackspot." On the otherwise-cloying rap-R&B track "Cupcakin'" Stalin deftly upstages fellow rapper John Nash with a lewd, smart-alecky cameo, a la Ludacris: [I'm] a virginity taker, pancake baker, I go to order some food and knock the waitress. The artist's hooky new club rap, "Banga Dance" has him shouting out homies on 10th Street -- and making not-so-subtle allusions to a barely concealed semi-automatic weapon -- over a primordial beat by the local production duo tha Mekanix. More light-hearted than the rapper's other material, it's designed to find favor with commercial radio DJs, as indicated by the rapper's new MySpace alias: "Request 'Banga Dance' @ 1-800-955-kmel."