(Herald rating: * * * )

How many dudes do we know raaaa-hock a show like this? Um, let's see. Qualify dude.

Someone of abundant charisma, indefinable cool and ability to rhyme, tough and fast without straining for effect?


If so, then round here, Scribe is now Dude Number One, after hit single Stand Up alone. The song might have had him leading a rallying cry for local hip-hop, but it and flipside Not Many - known in the playgrounds of the nation as the "how many dudes song" - have taken him beyond being rap guy of the moment. Now, he's a pop star, too.

Which puts some heavy expectations on this, his debut album. No doubt it will sell like the clappers, but it must be said, it's lacking a bit of meat on its bones.

In its 45 minutes you get 12 tracks, two of which - Not Many and My Lady - repeat themselves in remixes. To that you can add the very familiar Stand Up and a couple of tracks that either exist as throat-clearing with hometown shout-outs (the Canterbury-namechecking The Theme from Crusader), or a extensive thank-you list (So Nice).

That said, the other new offerings show Scribe is a rare local MC in that he's brave enough to be a lover (My Lady) as well as a fighter (Too Late) while he carries off the inevitable autobiographical out-from-under theme on the likes of Been This Way, and Dreaming, without sounding cliched or tryhard.

And while capable of tongue-tripping rapping, he shows a deft less-is-more style when the mood requires.

There are a couple of memorable guest turns - from the Dubious Brothers' Tyna on stand-out track Stronger and the Deceptikonz's Savage playing gruff sergeant major on Not Many The Remix, while the canny production of DJ P-Money on the majority of the tracks gives the likes of Stronger and Dreaming a mix of askew soul-sweetness, hook and punch.

But it's perhaps a pity some past collaborations such as Remember from the DJ's own Big Things albums didn't get an encore here.

When it gets going, it's great - Stand Up is the sound of young New Zealand in 2003 - but The Crusader still feels like Scribe hasn't put quite enough pen to enough paper.