Bahamadia is a rare breed in the world of hip-hop: A female with undeniable lyricism and skills who remains unconcerned with commercial trends. While these qualities have earned her respect and admiration amongst her peers, they have not helped keep her from floating in semi-obscurity since her arrival in 1996 when she dropped her now out-of-print debut and appeared on The Roots' "Push Up Your Lighter". More recently, she whetted everyone's appetite by holding her own alongside Talib Kweli on "Chaos" off the Soundbombing II compilation. So will 2000 be the year Bahamadia finally breaks through and leaves an indelible mark on the scene? Judging from the sounds of her new EP, BB Queen, probably not.
The EP opens strongly with a nice instrumental featuring cuts from DJ Revolution and containing vocal samples of Bahamadia's predecessors like MC Lyte and Queen Latifah. It sets the tone for a proverbial "passing of the torch" to the next generation of female emcees. This leads perfectly into the EP's best track, "Special Forces", which enlists the vocal talents of Cali Agents' Planet Asia and Rasco along with Chops from the Mountain Brothers. Chops also does the production while Revolution kills it on the turntables. The result is the first true banger that Bahamadia has been a part of on wax. She leads the track off with a tight verse ending it with: "We all first string/ Spittin' the jewels that bling-bling/ and when I hit the mainstream/ Y'all niggas can bite me." By the time Planet Asia grabs the mic and shreds it, the intensity is already at a fever-pitch and we are left wondering what's in store for the rest of the album. Unfortunately, therein lies the problem.
The rest of the EP struggles to stay afloat amidst unremarkable hooks and somewhat dull production. Bahamadia does herself a favor by not trying to immediately follow "Special Forces" with another aggressive cut. Instead she gives a shot-out to all the financially strapped women making their way with what they've got on "Commonwealth (Cheap Chicks)". Her sentiments are heartfelt and she deserves credit for touching on a rarely acknowledged topic but this track is probably not going to get anyone too excited. Still, the hook is decent and the concept is pulled off fairly well. Next up is "One-4-Teen (Funky For You)" which features Detroit's Slum Village on the hook. Note to all artists: If you're going to collaborate with Slum Village you should try and utilize their best asset (Super-producer Jay Dee behind the boards). Instead, Bahamadia is left with Ronald Estill doing his best Jay Dee impression and not quite pulling it off. Nevertheless, Bahamadia gives arguably her best performance of the EP on the mic and the track is the best on the album save "Special Forces". The relatively unknown Dwele does the production and croons over the next two joints, the instrumental "Philadelphia" and the state-of-the-world commentary "Beautiful Things". Production-wise, it's difficult to tell either track from the other and they both fail to impress. The more up tempo, yet spacey "Peptalk" concludes the proceedings with Bahamadia giving the obligatory double-time flow a shot. While it's refreshing to hear her try something different in terms of rhyme schemes, the vocal sample between verses doesn't seem to fit and for the third verse she repeats the first.
Overall, this EP does not seem like a triumphant return for a gifted lyricist who some have been waiting on for four years. Most of the album is of the "sit, relax, and listen" variety. Even while doing that it is still difficult to understand the BB Queen at times. Her vocals seemed muddled even over the quietest of tracks. Whether this is a problem with the mixing or just the result of her low-key flow, it is something that could be improved upon along with the production if Bahamadia wants to really make her presence felt in the male-dominated world of hip-hop.