touch-the-sky.jpgAs long as man has lived, he has reached toward the heavens in search of a God-like existence. Attempting to sit among hip-hop deities, DJ Clinton Sparks teams up with Mr. “Jesus Walks” himself on Touch the Sky, a star-studded mixtape featuring exclusive joints produced almost solely by Sparks. Surely a nod from West can propel any disc to Olympian heights, and when you couple Kanye’s cosign with Sparks’ ability to create entire songs from spare 16s, expectations run impossibly high.

On the D-Block stickup anthem “Take Everything,” Sparks cleverly manipulates the theme song from Cheers to suit the Y.O. robbin’ spree. Meanwhile, West manages to praise not only the Lord, but also himself on “Blow Your Mind,” lacing Clinton’s most soulful selection with contradictory lines like, “Ask God to help me fly away” and “My diamonds is whiter than Michael Jackson.” ’Ye’s words are fleeting, though, as the project’s marquee MC contributes a measly three verses to the entire CD. It’s Busta Rhymes who ends up stealing the show with the Pharrell-featured “Followers,” spittin’, “One of the greatest corporate shifts of the year came from the birth
of the merger/Aftermath, Flipmode, faggot!”

The disc takes a drastic dip when Clinton tries to resurrect Biggie on “Rap Phenomenon Pt. II” like Jesus did Lazarus. The track’s eerie flute and anorexic hand-clap drum pattern doesn’t exactly breathe life into the beloved verses. Sparks also struggles on Slim Thug’s “Round Here,” which sounds like a Neptunes impersonation gone wrong. He makes up for the production fouls on “H-Town,” a Screw-inspired head nodder featuring Mike Jones and Slim.

Although high-profile guests like Diddy, Q-Tip and Ludacris are sure to satisfy, the lack of heat from the mix’s host doesn’t exactly make Touch the Sky an immaculate collection. Still, Clinton Sparks sets the bar high enough to keep mere mortals praising his contributions.—ROB MARKMAN