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By Julie Seabaugh
Steddy P (a.k.a. Ray Pierce) may hail from Kansas City and therefore stretch the normal boundaries of this local-release column, but the rapper and hip-hop impresario has enough connections to the Lou to make him an honorary citizen. His latest disc, Style Like Mind, was created with beats and scratches from from local beat-battler/producer Ben Bounce, and he also founded the IndyGround Entertainment label, which will release the Earthworms' upcoming album. As a rapper, Steddy P is quick, clever and, like most underground MCs, obsessed with establishing himself as an outsider. On "Format," Steddy proudly proclaims to the unnamed masses that he "don't fit in a box, working in their format." Luckily Steddy P has the goods to back up his claims. His rhymes are lightning-quick without seeming forced, giving the album a vibe that's both laid-back and tough to ignore. His Missouri drawl isn't so countrified as, say, Nelly's is on Country Grammar, but his well-rounded R sounds give him a distinct diction only matched by REO Speedwagon's Kevin Cronin.
"Won't Lay Down" serves as the album's mission statement and a call to arms for DIY musicians: The song singles out "simple-minded critics trying to water my sound." With Bounce's horn-heavy soul samples and basic, blocky beats, the grooves are always upfront and addictive. Bounce brings the same formula with the next track, "No Matter How," and he adds some tasteful scratching to give a little more edge to Steddy P's fervid flow. He's a strong, confident rapper, but it's hard not to let the background instrumental bed take over. As the album progresses, the beats get a little harder, and the hooks become more bizarre and deliciously disorienting: The harpsichord-and-choir loop on "Release" (which features Earthworms MC Mathias) is the result of adventurous crate-digging, and the mellow horn charts on "Kenneth Arnold" drop a little bit of Bacharach amid clanging cymbals and chopped-and-screwed vocals. Taken together — Steddy's indie-proud boasts and Bounce's tireless mixes — Style Like Mind is one of the strongest collaborations between rapper and beat-maker to bubble out of the local hip-hop underground in years.
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Correction published 9/29/09:In the original version of this story, we we mistakenly said that DJ Mahf contributed beats and scratches. In fact, it was Ben Bounce. Additionally, Steddy P's surname is Pierce, not Price. The above version reflects these corrections.