Kansas City crooner Boy Big went national with an appearance on Gangstarr's "Nice Girl, Wrong Place," which juxtaposed the singer's buttery vocals with Guru's laconic rapping. The song helped establish Boy Big as a purveyor of the new-school soul that is grounded in R&B and capped off with a heaping of hip-hop spice. That hardly original concept is extended to The Playa, the Hustla, the Gentleman, on which Big assumes all three roles, alternating between gritty tales of street strife and boudoir ballads designed for maximum panty droppage. Big has used his newfound connections to secure guest spots from Wu Tang alums Raekwon and Ghostface Killah, an unprecedented coup for a local act. Though Big's fluttery falsetto is understandably at the forefront of the album, Playa works best on collaborative numbers such as the bouncy "Reppin," which is buoyed by fire-spitting verses from Dice and Mitch the Mingler. Clocking in at more than 70 minutes, Playa suffers from a lack of quality control -- there's a sameness to many of the tracks and enough lyrical theme retread to lose any initial impact. But Big's vocal prowess offers a welcome alternative to the usual in Kansas City gangsta rap.