Artist: Slick Watts Track: "I Need Cake" Album: 25 to Life

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Martins Ferry hip-hop artist Slick Watts teamed with the Midas touch of producer and host Mick Boogie for a mixtape that's solid from start to finish. With the release of 25 to Life, Watts has been nominated for "Best Mixtape Artist" at the 2007 Ohio Hip-Hop Awards, which will be held Saturday, September 22, the Galleria in Cleveland.

It's one of his four nominations.

The mixtape doesn't break much new ground artistically, especially as hungry and emerging rappers put out quirkier and more bizarre compilations each day. What stands out on this collection is the consistency and the top-notch quality - rare things on a medium used most often for repping cities, empty boasts and lackluster re-runs of current tracks.

Nearly a third of the dialogue in Blow was included between songs - it gets old real fast - but there's plenty of good stuff from Watts and other artists around the Midwest.

"I Need Cake" takes more than one cue from the staccato beats that Justin Timberlake and Timbaland perfected on FutureSex/LoveSounds, but the emcee's rhymes sound more at home atop them. The effect is standing late at night beneath strobe lights and being compelled to the stage by a strong, commanding voice.