Lil Mama, 'Voice of the Young People' (Jive/Zomba)

8
Voice of the Young People
Critical Mass
Label: Jive/Zomba

by Chuck Eddy

Originally planned for release last September, this 18-year old Brooklyn fireball's debut album follows a year-long string of singles and semi-singles. Teasing crushed-out boys in front of her locker in "Lip Gloss" and rolling with Avril Lavigne while referencing Hop on Pop in her "Girlfriend" remix, Niatia Kirkland generated more bleacher-beat rock'n'roll energy than any other human in 2007. Her kiddie-assisted round-the-mulberry-bush line dance "G-Slide (Tour Bus)" and kinetic Chris Brown- and T-Pain-assisted TV dance-show theme "Shawty Get Loose" should also be on your hard drive.

But while a few of the ringtone-ready R&B concoctions that stretch out the album (especially "Swim" and "One Hit Wonder") retain her lip-smacking effervescence, too frequently she winds up subdued. Lil Mama is most in her element making sugared-up Radio Disney tykes dance. So it's disconcerting, if understandable, that she's so insistent on showing off a maturing mind-set and athletic ability to rhyme real fast.

Eight tracks in, gears switch into a downbeat stack of ghetto-reality tracks documenting unplanned pregnancies, the plight of foster daughters, and the difficulty of going away to college when one's dad is behind bars. They're thoughtful enough to help make this one of the year's best rap albums. But compared to the bubblegum classics she's trying to outgrow, they sort of feel like homework.

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