Though it's billed as a mixtape, Rapsody's Return of the B-Girl comes off more like the actual debut album the promising Kooley High emcee has yet to deliver. Clocking in past 80 minutes, the project uses first-rate production to rise above the typical mixtape fare of hijacked, castaway beats. That should come as no great shock considering B-Girl was released by Jamla, an imprint of producer 9th Wonder. He, indeed, looms large throughout, producing 14 of these 20 tracks and lending nearly every member of his talent cartel, the It's A Wonderful World Music Group, to the tape. His visage on the cover art almost overshadows that of his starlet protégé.
Fortunately, Rapsody makes her own impression where it counts, refusing to be overwhelmed by a guest list that includes stars Big Daddy Kane and Rah Digga and rising talents Phil Adé, Mac Miller and Raleigh's King Mez. A poet-turned-rapper, Rapdiddy (as she's dubbed herself) has always possessed outstanding wordplay, but B-Girl finds her effortlessly nimble delivery—capable of both gritty and biting or sassy and sultry—continuing to improve. Rapsody's choppy, rapid-fire bars go toe-to-toe with Digga's menacing verse on "Win." On the very next track, she offers a laid-back flow above a smoothed-out DJ Premier instrumental graced by a breathy soul hook. Such versatility makes Rapsody one of the few emcees to truly earn comparisons with both Lauryn Hill and MC Lyte.
Still, despite the B-Girl title and an opening track roll call of hip-hop's most influential females, Rapsody seems to have little interest in having her rap prowess qualified by gender. "I don't think she wants to be the best female emcee," 9th Wonder once said. "She wants to be one of the best emcees ever." Sure enough, Rapsody compares herself with Biggie multiple times throughout the record. She's not in his stratosphere, of course, but B-Girl continues Rapsody's ascension toward the level of even her most prominent collaborators, male and female.