As much as I wanna give this record four stars, it's really somewhere between 3.5 and 4, but Amazon.com doesn't give that option, so I'll just give it four. While it isn't as consistent as 1996's "Firing Squad," "First Family 4 Life" has some definite winning moments.
As far as lyrical prowess goes, Billy Danzenie and Lil' Fame rip the mic like a sheet of wet tissue paper. It's the music that brings a large portion of the album down. The tracks supplied by beatmakers like Big Jaz and even the tracks M.O.P. produced just don't give the MCs the due credit.
But when they enlist the right producers (namely DJ Premier and Da Beatminerz), the results are nothing less than spectacular. For evidence, check "My Kinda Nigga, Pt. II," a Beatminerz track that features Heather B... blazin'. More? How about "I Luv," a Premier-engineered track with Freddie Foxxx spitting his usual amazing lyrics. More still? How about the best installment of "Downtown Swinga" yet? It's here. Premier supplies a bouncy street beat, and the MCs go to town, stomping more Timberland-sized holes in the asphalt.
There are some moments here where the self-produced songs work. "New York Salute" rolls along and is a nice capper to what is overall a very solid album. But overall, the joint could have been improved.