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Vibe June/July 1999

Dave Hollister Ruffneck Soul

He earned his stripes singing backup for the likes of Patti LaBelle, Mary J. Blige, Tupac and Usher, and gained a rep as one fourth of Blackstreet. But singer/songwriter Dave Hillister recently dreams of a world beyond R&B. Just like an actor who yearns to direct, or a model who desires to act, Hollister aspires to be something other than what he is. "If I could rap, I would be an rap artist," the thirtysomething Chi-Town native says, idly stabbing his fork into a dish of peach cobbler. "Eric Sermon always calls me a rapper trapped in an R&B singer's body 'cause of the way that I write." Hollister smiles broadly, his eyes as bright as the diamonds glistening on his fingers and around his wrist. "I think I learn more towards hip hop than R&B," he says. "But I know I can't rhyme."

Not that it has slowed him down any. On his long-awaited solo collecton Ghetto Hymns (Def Squad/Dreamworks), Hollister takes his longtime love affair with rap to a new level. Part of the hip hop feel that Ghetty Hymns invokes comes via Hollister's association with the aforementioned Green-Eyed Bandit. The former member of EPMD and current titan of Def Squad coexecutive-produced Ghetto Hymns, the first CD to be released on Sermon's joint venture with DreamWorks. But much of the credit belongs to Hollister himself, who marries his soaring gospelsoked tenor to some thuggish-ruggish lyrics and rough-and-ready content. Case in point: tracks like the bouncing "Came in the Door Pimpin' (feat. Too Short)" and the first single "Babymamadrama". A little Springer-style slice of life, "Babymamadrama" is, in ist coarse, o short-way, the antithesis of the sensitive, pleading, down-on-my-knees loveman ethos. "No begging. We been there, done that," Hollister says. "Guys always making albums for woman, but nobody looks out for us, know what I'm saying?" Holliser represents ghetto life and love when he steps to the mike. "I'd explain my album as beeing an R&B Jay-Z album." Hey, smooth singers can lead hard-knock lives too.