Sounds like … Reith's labelmates Liquid, Paul Wright, and John Reuben, combining hip-hop and pop, as well as the soulful sounds of John Legend and Brian McKnightAt a glance … while it's a short disc that varies from weighty to frivolous, The Forecast EP demonstrates enough thought in the rhymes and genre-bending sound to build interest in newcomer B. ReithTrack Listing Rain Down Awe-Struck Bottom of the 9th Cold World Go On

Depending on your perspective, B. Reith is a perfect fit for Gotee Records, or else perfectly indicative of the kind of artists Gotee has gravitated toward over the last five years. Either way, one thing is clear: Once tobyMac discovered Reith's music in 2006, the young Milwaukee native was bound to be right at home with the Gotee label. Of course, Gotee is in something of a transitional state these days after recently regaining independence from EMI. That might explain why this national debut is only five songs long, though The Forecast EP offers just enough to get a decent feel for B. Reith (the "B" stands for Brian, yo).

As with labelmates Liquid, Paul Wright, and John Reuben, Reith's influences span the gamut of hip-hop and pop, but leans heaviest on soulful R&B. With co-production by Bryan Lenox (dc Talk, Michael W. Smith), the singer/rapper effectively blends genres in a way that might annoy purists yet endear listeners looking for a more eclectic and melodic expression of rap—there's actual instrumentation here, rather than programmed loops.

"Rain Down" immediately establishes the EP's sound with mellow electric piano, soft B3 organ, light rhythm guitar, and an overall R&B vibe heavily soaked in jazz and soul. A prayer for renewal and guidance, the song runs a bit too long at close to 6 minutes, but it shows enough potential for Reith to develop an interesting jam band to compliment his rhymes. "Bottom of the 9th" delivers a funky groove while reminding us to show care with our words and daily choices, knowing that Christ may return soon. In "Cold World," an acoustic based cut with Latin undertones, Reith warns "don't lose yourself" to depression when life turns difficult.

The rest isn't nearly as heavy in theme, for better or worse. "Awe-Struck" is a playfully tongue-tied romantic rap, while "Go On" echoes KJ-52 with its silly wordplay, offering an introduction to Reith that also explains how to pronounce his name. (Thank goodness we don't need to be subjected to lame "Be Right" puns.) Frivolous as some of the songs are, The Forecast EP concisely demonstrates Reith's capacity for range, and really, the most a newcomer can hope for with such a short debut is to show potential for an interesting full-length album later. Mission accomplished.

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