With the ringtone-rap era in full new-jack swing, it’s easy to classify Hurricane Chris as just another disposable Southern MC—mainly because of his simplified breakout hit “A Bay Bay,” which is long on woozy, head-nodding production but short on lyrics. But unlike his downloadable peers, the baby-faced rapper proves to be more than just a one-hit wonder on his surprisingly well-rounded debut, 51/50 Ratchet.
On the aggressive “Do Something,” with its slow pace and double-time drums, Hurricane reveals the small-town paranoia of his Shreveport, La., hood. Likewise, the Phunk Dawg–produced “Leaving You” is a lucid track about love lost, wherein HC calls out a potential heartbreaker: “I’m a Pisces/You could never be my wifey/You act like you don’t like me/Unless I’m driving something pricey.”
Throughout 51/50 Ratchet, Hurricane deftly stays in pocket over an array of standout productions. Whether the beats are provided by newcomers the Package Store (the sucker-MC ode “New Fashion”) or Mr. Collipark (the sure-to-be-smash “Playas Rock”), the rap rookie never anxiously overraps or gets lost in the music. In fact, on the latter, he tucks a safe-sex message into his pimpology: “She told me that she want me to cut her, but she don’t want me to use a rubber/No rubber, no rubber/I’m feelin’ like you tryna get me caught up/No disrespect, lil’ mama, but that’s just how I was brought up.”
Hurricane’s hustle and flow isn’t without fault, however. Although his lyrics are often genuine and forthright (the stirring Nicole Wray–assisted “Momma”), he occasionally stumbles, with weak lines like, “My pants so expensive they come in a can” (“Doin’ My Thang”). Chris also falls prey to limited subject matter, but that has more to do with age than with actual talent. Complete with heartfelt tales, catchy songwriting and a voice that’s so elastic it fits snugly around beats like one of Jim Jones’ T-shirts, 51/50 Ratchet is one storm listeners can definitely ride out to.—JAYSON RODRIGUEZ