Like so many post-millennial L.A. rap acts this side of Jurassic 5, the music of Time Machine is warm and melodic, a slice of aural sunshine. The trio raps about the brighter side of life, like performing shows, chasing girls, and having fun. It's the equivalent of your friend's garage band rocking out at a house party with such enthusiasm that you can't help but sing along, no matter how shaggy the music actually sounds.

But if you believe some overzealous music journalists, groups such as Time Machine aren't even a valid expression of hiphop culture, just collateral damage, an example of the noise that occurs when "bourgeois" suburban kids try to make rap music that reflects their own existence. Even as the trio's 2004 debut, Slow Your Roll, released on L.A. indie upstart Glow in the Dark Records, drew favorable notices in indie rags such as XLR8R, major outlets mostly ignored it, save for a few kind comments from longtime XXL columnist Chairman Mao. Still, there's nothing wrong with music that hews closer to everyday life than the fevered imagination of a Rap City video, even if it can't compare to the slick undulations of the latter form.

"Who needs a mic?/Nobody's listening but us when we bust/It's just a rhyme/In time we trust," say the group on "Who Needs a Mic?" Indeed, listening to Slow Your Roll will give you the sound of untapped potential. The songs are rough-hewn: Most of the tracks, which are produced by DJ Mekalek as well as a few guest contributors, have a great beat and inspired lyrics from MCs Jaysonic and Comel. But they often lack a key ingredient, whether it's the ill-fitting chorus from guest vocalist Folami that barely holds together "Reststop Sweetheart," or Jaysonic and Comel's tendency to mumble their words.

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As Slow Your Roll indicates, Time Machine are still learning how to assemble a great record with universal appeal. Whether the glass is half full or half empty is up to you to decide, but the group's growing cadre of supporters indicates that the former conclusion is a wise choice.

editor@thestranger.com

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