Not that Bow Wow wasn't gradually working his way toward it, but on New Jack City II, the MC, now 22 years old, makes like a younger and slightly cleaner T.I. However, Bow Wow doesn't merely project the kind of smooth toughness/tough smoothness exuded by his obvious inspiration. There are moments where the album sounds exactly like an attempted cloning, as heard in the kicked-back yet insolent flow throughout the opening "Get That Paper," and it even appears that way, as seen in the video for "You Can Get It All," from the mannerisms to choice of eyewear. Though Bow Wow drops a litany of curses from track to track and has transitioned from "Hey Little Momma" to "Pole in My Basement," New Jack City II is nonetheless within the domain of pop-rap, laced with candy-coated hooks and beats that are easy on the ears. Jermaine Dupri's long-running tradition of supplying Bow Wow with productions built on very easily identifiable sources continues (Rick James' "Big Time," TLC's "Baby-Baby-Baby," Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walking," Slick Rick's "La Di Da Di," Bobby Brown's "Roni"), and Swizz Beatz, oddly credited as "Swizz Beatsz," provides a typically noisy and purposefully obnoxious production for the closer, one of Bow Wow's toughest tracks yet. Some of these developments come off a little forced, but Bow Wow knew he had to abandon the PG material or risk irrelevance. It should pay off, yet it has no apparent effect on his output's quality level.
This album is inspired by Richard Shulman's experience of Assisi, Italy, where he spent some time with a meditation group in 1988. He returned to Assisi a year later with his synthesizer and computer, determined to express the feelings of Divine Love that he felt pervading this holy place. The musical results are infused with a sacred feeling of peace and contentment. Synthesized strings set much of the mood and the compositions have a strong resemblance to the slow movements of Bach organ preludes. The liner notes are extensive and describe the inspiration behind each of the eleven pieces. If The Fairy Ring is your cup of tea, then you will enjoy this sacred brew.