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The Ball Point Composer - Click to view! For Freddie Bruno, his first solo album has been a long time coming. People might remember his work as a member of Phonetic Composition on the PC Tools album. If not, they should recognize the unique, nasally voice from Deepspace 5's The Night We Called It A Day. Before that this "dark cat with the glasses" was involved in several projects over his eight years of rhyming. The Ballpoint Composer shows us that Bruno has been in the underground too long and he's finally stepped outside for some fresh air.

"Freddie B-R-U-Know" is a smooth opening number with a rich bass line and airy flute sample. Bruno introduces himself as a conscious emcee, dedicated to living a life close to God and excelling in his craft. From there the album is an unfortunate hit and miss. The second song on Ballpoint, "Pro Audio," is a definite strikeout as the beat is too similar to the previous song. Most of the 'misses' on this disc are due to their similar sounding beats. "Miss Bonita" and "Occupational Therapy" are two very groovy songs. "Miss Bonita" shakes things up with some Latin flavour and producer Harry Krum's (a.k.a. Playdough) trademark acoustic guitar. "Occupational Therapy" features Playdough as the Phonetic Composition team reunites. Playdough's voice sounds very sweet over his choppy trumpet sample and pulsating bass line.

"Updated and Still Hated" and "Comp USA" are two more huge whiffs. Once again the lack of diversity makes Bruno's voice sound monotonous. And while the music samples sound good, they can't override the annoying beat. Conversely, the succeeding track "Last Dance", is a highlight of the disc. Bruno's first verse brings out some good punch lines to discourage uninventive emcees. Then, he literally flips the script. The second verse is the first verse recited backwards. Because each line rhymes so well, both verses sound original. A brilliant setup by Krum and Bruno. "Null and Void" is an enjoyable tune featuring Lorca Black Eye. Once again, it's nice to hear a new voice to shake things up. The same can be said about "Rock the Beat Within Ya Heart." This is Krum's finest production piece. Joining Bruno are DS5 members Sintax and Sev Statik. This track is a definite head nodder and worth checking out.

Another humourous effort is "Not For Profit," where Bruno explains his plight as a broke hip-hop artist, then fantasizes about having a telethon to support him. The newest Deepspace 5 member Sivion brings his talent to "Earl Grey," a very appropriate tune for tea-time. Krum's smooth acoustic guitars will get toes tapping around the dinner table. Bruno is also known as quite a good producer and while he does get to produce some of the interludes on this disc, his only full effort is the album's finale, "The Monitor." After 14 tracks, we are thirsty for something new. Bruno delivers an excited beat with an accordion riff intelligently laced over electronic handclaps. The song almost saves the disc as his chants get you out of your chair and moving to the beat.

Let me state that Freddie Bruno is a fresh emcee. Uniqueness and originality score major points in this game. Yet it is ironic that an artist who is so fresh manages such unoriginal and predictable songs for 50 minutes. However, these Deepspace 5 members, especially producer Playdough, should get the benefit of the doubt. This album does not need to be scrapped, though it probably could be cut in half. There are some very cool songs on this disc that should get some play, but there is not enough for a solid full-length album. In the end, The Ballpoint Composer is a coin toss. Its enjoyment will be based solely on the listener's taste.
- Jon Corbin
July 2002
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