Smoke N Blaze
(Blue Image Entertainment)
Kev Blaze survived the collapse of a major-label record deal to issue his long-delayed debut, Smoke N Blaze. But deduct two points for his boasting about blending R&B and hip-hop like it's something new. And deduct another three for the same-ol' subject matter - nobody cares about the industry or the game, and we already know your name. That said, it's still a solid 7 on a scale of 10. Since he's bent on R&B-rap crossover, Blaze couldn't have found a better collaborator than fusion pioneer Krayzie Bone, who joins him on the popular single "What How I Do This," a keyboard-funk anthem about blingin' in a Caddy. Blaze can put together a respectable rhyme too: In the bedroom slow jam, "Lemme Get It," he croons to a lady friend, "I can do it fast and slow/You just let a nigga know." On the off chance the music hasn't distracted you from the lyrics, you'll know where she's coming from. - D.X. Ferris
Kev Blaze performs with Aubrey Cardilino and All These Kings at 8 p.m. Saturday, October 4, at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., 216.321.5588). Tickets: $8.
Bridging the Gap
After graduating from Ohio University, rapper Noxtradamas took a job as a juvenile-delinquent counselor and started finding ways to use his music to help kids. Unlike other rappers who complain about problems, Nox sets himself apart by rapping about solutions. Bridging the Gap is his first release since returning to Cleveland a year ago. He shows his skills by sampling artists such as Neil Young, Poison and Paul Simon. - Wes Dodd
Noxtradamas performs with Jesty Beatz, Smoke Screen and Peezy S. Thompson at 9 p.m. Saturday, October 4 at the Phantasy (11802 Detroit Ave., 216.228.6300). Tickets: $10.