Before Governor there was none. The streetwise southern gentleman who constantly refers to himself as "country boy" is indubitably in a lane that is all his. A lane muscularly paved by his silver tenacity, golden delivery and platinum faculty. There was absolutely no way that Governor wouldn't make it; it was just a matter of time. Brace yourself, the time is now. Governor's debut for Atlantic Records sublimely blasts off with the poignant "Ghetto For U." From the beginning, it becomes steadfastly apparent that this blessed son of Virginia isn't here to play hop-scotch; he means business. Just the way he rides The Trackmasters' well-manipulated sample (last heard on Edo G's "I Gotta Have It") would have your dear spine reaching out for multiple blankets. But it's not only the execution that deserves enthusiastic applause, it's also the dexterous way he packs in the verbosity of his lyrics without spilling past his boundaries. Country boy's a threat. Throughout the feast that is Governor's album, we are treated to poetically charged songs of pain, joy, indulgence, relationships and triumph. An avid and resourceful storyteller, Governor takes us on an engaging excursion that is as exciting as it is fulfilling. "Music is a vehicle for saying something," explains the man born Governor Washington in his characteristically somber yet animated manner. "It is an art. We already know what hustling's about... the street life. There's a whole other spectrum that our people don't talk about. Artists take their power for granted. At the end of the day, what you leave here when you go, is more important than what you did." Mirroring his personality, Governor's music manages the feat of being conscious without the pretentious airs that are usually associated with it. On "Be Yourself," a jeep banger with a Compton bounce to it, Governor, with the pious conviction of a southern minister, charges us to indulge in self-love and self-acceptance. The instant vintage "Winning," which sounds like a copulation between Sade and Jodeci, has the genre-busting singer/songwriter evoking sheer emotional truth. Here, he questions his woman's loyalty and her opportune motives for loving him. The slightly off-kilter, keyboard-driven "Under Pressure" begins with Governor hollering, "It's sad when you got an image with no message!" Sounding like that cool teacher in elementary school, it's the closest he comes to the philosophy of one of his musical heroes, KRS-One. It's also the closest he comes to rapping. The fabric that makes up Governor's style and delivery as a "hip hop soul singer" is marvelously groundbreaking in that, unlike those before him who only evoked the sensibility and perhaps attitude of hip-hop, Governor also diligently channels the cadence, prose and the most subtle inner workings of it. Neither does he rely on hip-hop as a crutch for his vocal shortcomings. Far from that, he's as proficient a singer as they come (check "Never Wanna Leave"). For as much as he embodies the swagger of his favorites Whodini and Jay-Z, so does he conjure the spirit of his idols Curtis Mayfield, Sam Cooke and Gil Scott Heron. "I try to create timeless music but still incorporate some hint of the current era I'm in," expounds Governor. Indeed, the beauty of the amalgamation that is Governor's lane is the fact that his influences have organically seeped into his very breath and step. What this translates into is that he's successfully managed to reinvent the wheel, instead of what we've become accustomed to being fed: the usual plagiarizing soul singer obsessed with replicating the sound of a past great who himself changed the game in his day. "Outta My Hands" showcases this exquisitely unique dynamic perfectly. Over Eddie Scorsasey's cinematic track, Governor, combining his church boy roots with a b-boy swagger, kicks a narrative about cutting all ties with a wayward lover (Not even the coolest night in September/Can make April showers bring May flowers"). On the sultry, mid-tempo mannish hit "Slow Down," Grand Hustle beatsmith Khao lays a gyrating, guitar-led bedding for country boy to sink his lecherous teeth into. And on the sparse, rum-infused Studio One-sounding "Move Easy," he engages in trying to serenade a femme fatale. Star producers Scott Storch ("Destiny"), Wyclef Jean ("Make Luv 2 U"), Mike City ("Good Life") and Just Blaze ("That's Right"), among others check in to pay their respect to the landing of a special talent who's been a long time coming. The Coming: It started once upon a time in Virginia when a young and eager Governor Washington graduated from high school in his native Virginia in 1990. He formed an R&B outfit a la Jodeci, named Case Closed. Yearning for success, they headed to New York City. Characteristically, their quest was unfortunately short-lived. The group disbanded. Built for combat, the resilient Governor stayed on in the Big Apple hoping to get a bite of the action. Action, though, was slow to materialize. In the meantime, Governor turned to nine-to-fiving and hustling to stay afloat. He eventually caught a break with indie cornerstone Warlock Records, who via a production deal eventually released his debut, Another State of Mind (2000). Back on his grind, in 2002, Governor eventually landed himself in the company of esteemed producers/executives, The Trackmasters. (By this time also, Governor had altered his groove from the orthodox R&B delivery employed on his Warlock release. He'd tapped more into his hip-hop influences and come up with his now inimitable style.) He recorded an appreciable amount of songs with them, most notably the intoxicating "My Life," featuring 50 Cent-who was at the time also signed to The Trackmasters. In fact, Governor and 50 recorded about six songs together for a prospective album they tentatively named "Best of Both Worlds." (Years later, Tone of The Trackmasters would suggest the idea to none other than Jay-Z and R. Kelly. Governor was commissioned to write songs for the album.) Not long after Governor and The Trackmasters decided to go their separate ways, he was introduced to his business partner Haitian Jack's cousin, producer Wyclef Jean. The two hit it off right away. Governor appeared on a Clef-produced song on Santana's "Shaman" (2002) and his "Preacher's Son" album (2003). Clef was indeed also responsible for Governor's signing to Atlantic Records. He walked Governor into renowned music executive Craig Kallman's office, who in turn wasted little time in signing the tour de force immediately. While completing the recording process for Atlantic, Governor received a call from the legendary Dr. Dre who expressed his staunch interest in producing six songs for Governor's major label debut. Governor then flew to Los Angeles where he ended up recording over a dozen scorchers with Dre. Akin to a Rhodesian cheeter's pace, the news of a historical joint venture between the good doctor's Aftermath imprint and Atlantic Records spread through the industry. Unfortunately the industry red tape got the better of the situation-Governor's work with Compton's finest is very unlikely to see the light of day. Rather than backing down and counting his losses, the soldier that relentlessly thrived in country boy reloads. At the recommendation of Kallman, he met with labelmate and Grand Hustle label (a joint venture with Atlantic) C.E.O., T.I. The two immediately hit it off and it wasn't long before T.I. and his partner, Jason Geter, inked Governor to a deal. The rest, as they proclaim, is history-in the making.