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With the exception of lyrically sublime Lauryn Hill of the Fugees and promising upstarts like Bahamadia, the female voice in rap has languished in mediocrity for the past several years. Into this arena comes Heather B., the original scorned daughter of hiphop. The MTV Real World alum was passed over by industry execs until her independently produced and distributed “All Glocks Down” blew speakers nationwide. Takin Mine, Heather B.’s no-frills, no-gimmicks follow-up, comes equipped with sparse, seismically bottom-heavy tracks on which she displays nearly stratospheric lyrical skill. With a musical genealogy more likely to list Notorious B.I.G. than Queen Latifah as next-of-kin, Heather B. showcases a style informed by the testosterone-laden, crotch-grabbing hypermasculinity that has been the staple of so many of her male predecessors; this CD contains no sappy relationship rhymes or gratuitous breast-baring. Soundwise, this is minimalism at its best. From the opening track, “Da Heartbreaka,” the production—provided by Kenny Parker, the ascendant younger sibling of KRS-One—is uncluttered, yet dense and supremely jeep-friendly. Takin Mine is hiphop for the ghettocentric, liberally spiced with the requisite weed, glock, and hoop references. But urban voyeurism it ain’t. The scenarios conjured by Heather B. are realistic; events are chronicled but not hyperbolized. Promising to deliver thrills “like a flick by Heather Hunter,” Heather B. lives up to her claim for most of her debut. With the exception of the annoyingly banal “My Kinda Nigga” (which features M.O.P.), Takin Mine is deftly constructed and underground-oriented. Standouts include “Da Heartbreaka,” which is driven by pairs of piano pulses, and “No Doubt,” which is punctuated by hypnotic decaying guitar blasts. Set against the molten heaviness of its siblings, the florid, R&B-suffused title cut is as out of place as Ralph Reed at an ACT UP rally. The verdict on Takin Mine: It’s an industry sleeper that will leave hiphop heads wide awake. Like insomnia.
—William Jelani Cobb