boyzndahood.jpgWhen Bad Boy South president Russell “Block” Spencer introduced Boyz N Da Hood in 2005, the group was meant to be a collective movement setting up each member’s solo career. Selling only 380,000 units, the quartet’s self-titled debut didn’t quite live up to expectations, and Young Jeezy wound up being the only trapper to capture the heart of the streets. Now, Snowman-less, Duke, Big Gee and Jody Breeze enlist newcomer Gorilla Zoe as a replacement for their re-up effort, Back Up N Da Chevy.

Filling Jeezy’s Air Forces isn’t easy, but Zoe jumps right in without missing a beat. On the Dee Jay Dana–produced “Everybody Know Me,” he goes line for line with the crew, with no qualms. Their continued chemistry is displayed once again on “Hood Laws,” where each member alternates kicking cautionary tales about the code of the streets. But for all their talk of huggin’ the block, the refreshingly honest “Bite Down” finds the cocaine cowboys actually admitting to gettin’ high on their own supply.

Unfortunately, the Boyz’ creative streak stalls about midway through the disc. On the Rick Ross–featured “Paper,” Drumma Boy’s 808-filled score gets squandered, with Zoe aimlessly spewing, “Coca/Cola/I ain’t talkin’ soda/Add a little water/Add a little soda/Yeah, it’s lockin’ up/’Cause the water’s gettin’ colda.” Then there’s the Yung Joc–assisted “Nothing Is Promised” and the chest-beating “Say What’s on Your Mind,” both of which suffer from synth-heavy melodies that do little to accentuate the trap stars’ brazen bravado.

The crew does manage to switch things up sonically when they enlist hook man of the moment T-Pain for the smooth strip-club ode “Table Dance.” But it’s the aggressive “Block Boyz” and the festive title track that rekindle the magic of “Dem Boyz.” Although not as strong without Jeezy, Boyz N Da Hood still manage to put in that work. —PAUL CANTOR