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 ("Tank In My
Hand"), 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, "School On Lock"
(RealAudio excerpt), 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
(RealAudio excerpt), 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