When it comes to Baltimore, Maryland’s contributions to hip-hop they usually start with B-Rich’s nominal hit “Whoa Now” and end with the critically acclaimed TV show The Wire. It’s a small aspect but when you have to basically rebuild your own area when referencing the genre, you’d better start with Omar and not the “Whoa Now” guy.
John Regan figures to be the in between of both as his aptly titled debut album Sorry I’m Late carries some heavyweight backing with features from Marsha Ambrosius, Joell Ortiz and not to mention producing being handled by 88-Keys & Nottz respectively. Wading through all of those big indie names for a debut release may swallow up many but Regan proves throughout the disc his introspection and emotion pull him away from those trappings.
First, let’s get these numerous features out of the way. The 88-Keys produced Nobody’s Somebody pulls listeners for two reasons. Reason one is the congo instrumentation by Keys which builds into a monumental beat. Regan & Nottz trade verses, each one dropping a nifty line here and there with neither man trying to step on the others toes. Precision is stretched in spades on Yesterday featuring Brooklyn emcee Joell Ortiz. In house producer YZ crafts some eerie piano keys wrapped around a haunting chorus from singer Meylin and Regan continues to emphasis more and more on his upbringing, putting enough of himself out there that the listener literally wants to root for the guy’s success.
With Regan spilling his heart out, the production varies heavily between traditional boom bap and the rap-rock hybrids of the early aughts. Either it’s some soul drenched piano strikes and open wounds or its heavy boastful drum patterns and melodies. It’s not detrimental to the overall product but you can definitely get a feel for who Regan is, which is what should be accomplished by all debut albums. Here’s a man who’s willing to let his rhymes tell his story and not regret any of it once he leaves the booth. Even though Up There With You featuring Sha Stimuli & Naledge is a bonus cut, it’s one you easily have to anticipate and enjoy considering not only the names but the overall quality of the track in general.
A debut album can be precise with a singular theme and work to build for a future. While John Regan builds his debut album around regrets and attempts for forgiveness, it’s no denying the emcee has promise to build upon. It’s up to him whether he wants to achieve it or not.
FINAL SCORE: 7.5