Picks and Pans Review: Escape from Havana

updated 10/23/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/23/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Mellow Man Ace

Perhaps because it developed from such fertile roots, perhaps because it's the genre of choice for our teeming urban youth, whatever the reason, rap keeps rapidly evolving, creatively outstripping all other pop-music forms. Mellow Man Ace, born Ulpiano Sergio Reyes in Cuba and raised in SoCal, adds a striking new wrinkle. He raps in both English and colloquial Spanish, often shifting between the two, sometimes even within a single phrase, and that bilingual mix-and-match approach gives his rhymes a beguiling meter and bounce. Try the salsa-spiced "Rap Guanco" or the record's masterpiece, "Mentirosa," which is built on an ample and tasty sampling of Santana's "Evil Ways." Mellow Man will hold your attention even when he's playing it straight (i.e., in English only), as on the monster mash, "Hip Hop Creature," which borrows its melodic signature from Rush's "Tom Sawyer"; the jaunty, ratcheting "Rhyme Fighter"; or the smooth rap ballads "If You Were Mine" and "B-Boy in Love." But it's when he drops into the loving tongue that his music becomes truly distinctive and exciting. Muy bien, Mellow Man. (Capitol)

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