Record Review - 4 September 26 2001

For a label whose name stands for "Barely Breaking Even" (a reference to Universal Robot Band's disco-era rare groove track of the same name), U.K.-based BBE always can be counted on for top-dollar tracks. Already known for its top producers and tight production, BBE now adds Will.i.am, of Cali's Black Eyed Peas, to its stable. Lost Change pulls triple-duty as Will.i.am's solo debut, volume three of the label's "Beat Generation" series (which also has featured Jay Dee and Pete Rock) and the soundtrack to an online short film sponsored by Levi's Silver Tab jeans.

Despite the corporate sponsorship, Lost Change is hardly a handful of Puff Daddy-approved pop anthems. Featuring appearances by cats like Planet Asia, Terry Dexler, Mike Meyers, Medusa and Burning Spear, Lost Change is underground that still knows how to get down. Thankfully, it doesn't get lost in promoting change — or any overt political agenda, for that matter. Will.i.am sticks with the playful, party atmosphere that makes Black Eyed Peas so refreshing, mixing guitar, bass, horns and Hammond organ over crisp beats.

The mood of Lost Change ranges from fuzzy funk to jazzy to downright jiggy. Will.i.am utilizes some creative production tricks, such as building the bouncy "I Am" around throaty beatbox. BBE might want to change its name to BBA — with tracks this good, you can Barely Break Away.

The Black Eyed Peas perform Mon., Oct. 1, at the Roxy.??