Booga Basement – 2001 – 69 minutes

There's something strangely familiar about City High's self-titled debut album, and a glance at the sleeve notes reveals where this sense of deja vu comes from. The producer of the record is one Wyclef Jean and his paw prints are indelibly etched into the fabric of this group's sound. Comparisons with the Fugees are inevitable, not just because of Wyclef's presence, but also because of the two-guys-and-a-girl make up of the group.

Robby Pardlo, Ryan Toby and Claudette Ortiz have created a record that is very much in the r'n'b groove that is dominating music at the moment. The band are politicised at a street level, dealing with the nuts and bolts of everyday life; soulful Stateside hit 'What Would You Do' is a tale of single motherhood. '15 Will Get You 20', which deals with teen sex, features lyrics about the consequences of your actions, making it a refreshing antidote to the misanthropy of Eminem and the Gangsta shtick of Tupac and Snoop.

There are the usual sugary ballads that could do damage to diabetics, but they aren't the dominant force on this release. This is a very commercial record, (aren't Wyclef's always?), but it maintains its edge thanks to the serious lyrical content. There are some highly original aspects to the production, illustrated by the seamless inclusion on 'What You Gonna Do' of a sample of Dre's 'The Next Episode'.

If you like Wyclef you will like this record. His familiar recipe of slick production and soulful lyrics make this a very professional debut. 'City High' seem to be part of a movement, alongside Lucy Pearl and Spooks, which is letting the world know that black America is about more than just blunts and guns. That alone makes this classy album stand out from the crowd.

John Raftery

Tracklisting: Didn't Ya - Three Way – Why - Song for You - 15 Will Get You 20 - Cats and Dogs – Caramel - Best Friends – Sista - What Would You Do - So Many Things - Only One I Trust - City High Anthem - You Don't Know Me - Do The Right Thing - Things Change