Block Life 

Gorillaz & Birds

(Block Life Entertainment)

Kansas City MCs Dennis "Wescrook" Westbrook and Dandrae "Cku Koo Bird" Jones are back with Gorillaz & Birds, a sure-footed step forward from their aggressive debut, Bleed the Block. These 12 cuts tend to be reflective (give or take hot-and-heavy rave-ups like "U Can Do It"), and they are well-suited by hard-hitting but streamlined production from KC Blaze (even the few samples, including the recognizable Supremes on "Without U," are used sparingly and effectively). This crew knows what it's about: straight talk and steady grooves, calling out simplistic political posing on "Pitch It All" and celebrating the aesthetic essentials on "Beautiful Music." Album closer "Reach 4 the Sky" lives up to the ambition of its title in inspiring and unforgettable ways — no small feat on any level.

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