Teddy Riley is still a genius. That said, the new Blackstreet album, Level II, is still new-jack swinging like it's 1994. The lack of growth between 1996 classic Another Level and the nearly identical pair of follow-ups isn't altogether bad. The harmonies and vocals are tight, despite the group's changing members, finally returning to the Level combo of producer/singer Teddy Riley, Chauncey Hannibal, Eric Williams and Mark Middleton.
Riley's predilection to over-use vocal effects is apparent on the first single, a slinky slow jam called "Deep." Still, the combination of sex-laden lyrics with staccato guitar beats on standout tracks like "Baby You're All I Want" and "Friend of Mine" will win over old school Blackstreet fans like myself. But beware of unnecessary covers ("Ooh Girl"), generic ballads ("Look in the Water"), and painful overproduction ("Wizzy Wow"). Nine years in, Blackstreet is still kicking game and begging forgiveness from countless girls. Coming from Teddy Riley, that might just be all you want.