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Big Neal's roots show on debut album

Dawson-raised, Albany-based rapper Big Neal (Patrick Jones) is not one for modest goals.

"I want to sell enough copies of this album to get on Billboard," Big Neal says. "Then I want to go as many times platinum as I can."

While such lofty aspirations are made even more improbable by a music industry whose best-known superstars rarely reach platinum sales figures (1 million units) any more, that doesn't dim Big Neal's dreams.

"I know it's going to take a lot of hard work," he says. "But I'm willing to do whatever it takes."

Big Neal's first proper album, the slickly packaged "Dirt Roads, Backwoods, and Mosquito's," is a 13-tune mix tape of rhymes that bring to mind one of the local rapper's heroes, Biggie Smalls, with a touch of Big Punisher. The lead single off the disc, "Oh Yeah," which features Tempo and Peter Binford, spent the last couple of months on the playlist of influential local urban station Power 105.5.

"The song fit in well with what we're playing," on-air personality/programmer Jammin' Jay said of Big Neal's tune. "It didn't really sound like a locally produced song; it sounded more like something the record companies send out."

As with most mix tapes, Big Neal recorded with a number of guest artists at several local studios. The strong "In Da Future," co-written by Tempo and produced by Jason "Nyght Ryder" Johnson, was recorded at SGS Studios, while Big Neal also recorded with Argeno Williams from Southernville Productions and Mario Meadows with Platinum Sound Studios.

Williams and Michael Parker had a hand in another of the best songs off "Backwoods," the spare "Georgia Peach," while veteran Southwest Georgia rapper/producer Ole-E took over boardwork on "Trying to Be Good to You," which features strong vocals from Ashely J.

"Good Times," which features Ka-Flame and Spade Phlame, and the album closer "I'm Me" are also noteworthy.

Big Neal, who proves he's not afraid to go where other rappers haven't gone before by using country banjo on the no-nonsense "Intro," is best when he's willing to take chances. Local music supporters can help him continue to do so by picking up "Dirt Roads, Backwoods, and Mosquito's" (for $5) at amazon.com, through his website www.myspace.com/biggnealnofearproductions or by calling (229) 344-0799.

-- Carlton Fletcher