Prodigies aside, most kiddie acts have only one shot at fame, so it's
important that their debuts succeed in a big way. Most don't. In fact, most end up as answers to game-show questions.
The Bomb and Ikeim the Dream, collectively known as Lil' Soldiers, seem
destined for the trivia graveyard. While their debut, Boot Camp, has its moments, it lacks the hooks and rough-edged ghetto charm that have made other young acts successful.
Now the good news: Freequon and Ikeim have flow. If you can hear past their squeaky kid voices, you'll find that they rhyme as well as any of their labelmates (admittedly, not a tough gig in some cases) without cursing or relying on stereotypical street tales. In fact, they go toe to toe with No Limit artists Magic ("Soulja Style"), Mia-X , Ghetto Commission ("I Ain't Living Right"), Short Circuit ("Mama Needs A New Blouse"), Fiend ("For My Shorties") and Young Gunz ("Shout It Out") -- managing not to be outshined by any of them. If -- and it's a big if -- but if they can hold on to their careers long enough for their voices to mature, it's just possible that the two will have a future at No Limit.
The album's best track, is the one song out of 17 that has the potential to reach an audience beyond No Limit's fan base. The backing track has an infectious, hyperactive bounce that wouldn't be out of place on a Mystikal album. But lyrically is where "School On Lock" really pays off. Being too young (one would hope) to rhyme about gang battles or which city parties the hardest, Freequon and Ikeim give it up for what they know: school. Grades one through six get mad love, while everything from middle school up is dissed by omission.
Now for the bad news. No Limit's Beats By The Pound production team
continues to preach to the choir, cranking out the by-the-numbers bounce beats and rolling funk tracks that make nearly every No Limit release sound the same. The music on most of Boot Camp's tracks ends up overpowering Freequon and Ikeim's voices. Just as bad are songs such as which lower the volume in an attempt to spotlight the duo's voices. But these songs are too soft, and end up sounding like what your little cousins might come up with if they were to get ahold of a tape recorder and a programmable Casio.
Perhaps the title of this album -- Boot Camp -- is the most succinct review. These buck privates show some promise, but for now they're peeling potatoes and cleaning latrines -- building character in preparation for more prestigious positions (unless, of course, they are discharged before then).