Everlast's (a.k.a. Eric Schrody's) singing voice is a Tom Waits-style growl delivered in a tough-guy, world-weary, half-rapped, half-sung/spoken manner. His vocal style complements his dark topics, and the musicians who contribute bass, cello, and additional guitars inject groove into the mix. This time around, Everlast's stabs at straightforward hip-hop fall flat, and the coasting B-Real (of Cypress Hill) and always-unconvincing Kurupt fail to provide ample support. However, whereas most rap-rock icons should be served with a restraining order to keep them from disgracing hip-hop classics with inane remakes, Everlast does justice to Slick Rick's stellar "Children's Story" (from Great Adventures of Slick Rick), strumming soulfully over Rahzel's human beatbox and adding a new level of despair to the cautionary tale.
Everlast's new strength is offering seen-it-all empathy for underdogs and first-person tales of woe from the perspective of a societal outcast. "Black Jesus" convincingly examines racial tensions, and the spooky, string-section-powered "Graves to Dig" condemns hip-hop gun culture. "I Can't Move" provides a knowing meditation on mortality, while "Black Coffee" suggests that the woman to whom Everlast addressed "The Letter" still hasn't forgiven him for his youthful indiscretions. However, the rest of the public -- even hard-to-please music critics -- has forgiven Everlast's past sins. Like the Beastie Boys and the Red Hot Chili Peppers before him, Everlast has gone from an obnoxious guilty pleasure to a mature and respected artist. Who knows, there might be a day when someone says the same thing about Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst.