Let’s be honest. If Slaughterhouse was The Three Tenors, west coast veteran Crooked I would be José Carreras, the equally talented but sometimes overlooked member of the group. While Crook doesn’t display the same antics that garner Budden and Royce headlines, he’s proven time and time again that he belongs among rap’s elite, most recently with No Competition and now with Diamond in the Back. An homage of sorts to William Devaugn’s classic of the same name (which Ludacris also took a shot at), Diamond in the Back finds producer Tito Ali keeping the original’s smooth soul sound backed by some sharp hip-hop percussion. With fellow Treacherous Records crooner K-Young smoothing things out on the hook, Crooked uses his verses to remind listeners just how much distance there is between rap’s real emcees and the pretenders: “Tell the truth / before the album dropped was you a boss? / say yeah that’s as foolish as a Jewish cross / you don’t even believe it.” I think we can count on Crooked to continue to distinguish himself from the pack when his new EP, In None We Trust, drops this coming Tuesday, December 13.