05/12/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT
On her hip-hop soul debut, Amanda Perez doesn't have to resort to using guest rappers to boost her street cred. The 22-year-old Fort Wayne, Ind., native does double duty as both a singer and rhymer throughout Angel, as well as writing and producing all 12 cuts and playing most of the instruments. Unfortunately, though versatile, Perez doesn't do anything particularly well. Her awkward singing sounds like Jennifer Lopez
trying to do a Mary J. Blige imitation; at times she even struggles to stay on pitch. Meanwhile, with her cheesy rapping, Perez, despite all her thuggish posturing, is unconvincing as a girl gangsta (although she previously sold drugs to support herself and her family). While her D.I.Y. approach is certainly admirable, Perez's lackluster writing and production show that she could use some outside help. Only the hit title track, a bitter-sweet ballad written in memory of her cousin Mike, who died of heart failure at 31, really takes off.
BOTTOM LINE: Nothing heavenly