Ten years ago Black Rob was on one of the biggest singles in hip hop. P. Diddy premiered his new moniker and image with his track “Bad Boy for Life” that featured Black Rob and Mark Curry, and by this time, the Harlem rapper, had already found some mainstream success with his hit single “Woah!” and debut album Life Story. Ten years later, Diddy’s former Bad Boys have struggled to match the success they found in the early aughts: after a failed attempt to resurrect his career G. Dep confessed to a murder that he committed in 1993, Loon retired from rap (similar to another former bad boy, Ma$e) to focus on the Islam religion, and Black Rob severed four years in prison.
While the other Bad Boys fell off the face of the earth, Rob found his feet signing with the veteran indie label, Duck Down Records. There is no visible rust on Game Tested, Streets Approved, Rob’s first album in six years. Rob’s flow and delivery is as on point as it was ten years ago, and he sounds at home on Buckwild-laced tracks like “Welcome Back” and “Made Me a Man.” Rob isn’t the strongest lyricist of all time, but he delivers solid verses and can write excellent, street-oriented hooks like on “Get Involved” and “Boiling Water.”
Rob doesn’t do anything revolutionary on Game Tested, Streets Approved, but frankly he doesn’t need to. Tracks like “F*ck Em” and “Can’t Make it in New York” are vintage New York bangers, that are sort of rare in today’s hip hop, which has gotten considerably soft in the past few years. The gritty New York boom bap production, which is handled mostly by small name beat smiths, Buckwild and Rob himself, for the most part is solid throughout. The only notable missteps are the repetitive “Sand to the Beach” and the bland “Up North – This is What it is.” The only guest spot and biggest surprise listeners will get from this album, is the excellent Sean Price verse on the end of the album’s final track, “No Fear.” Although the world may always remember him from being a “Bad Boy for Life,” Duck Down seems like a very welcome and appropriate home for Black Rob.