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Rap ~ HipHop

    Posted 4 JUNE 2001

    "Stay Human" Spearhead Our price: $12.99 | You save: $3.98
    ...more here.
    Who is this generation's Marvin Gaye? It may well be Spearhead leader Michael Franti. He sings and raps from the heart, haunted by hollow words and hypocrisy. Stay Human is Franti's What's Going On, a risky, gorgeous album that dissects our society's sicknesses and posits soul music as a cure. This music is equal parts hip-hop attitude, R&B grooves, and poetic intelligence. A must-have.

    "Miss E...So Addictive [EXPLICIT LYRICS]" Missy Elliott Our price: $13.99 | You save: $4.98
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    Missy Elliott's latest straddles the line between R&B and hip-hop, but with Timbaland's amazing production, who cares what it's called? Professional stutterer Elliott's rhyming and singing skills leave a lot to be desired, but the beats almost make up for her weaknesses.

    "Infectious [EXPLICIT LYRICS]" Jigmastas Our price: $15.99 | You save: $1.98
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    Brooklyn's Jigmastas have it made: DJ Spinna provides supple, bottom-heavy beats and MC Kriminul rocks the mike. Guest spots from the cream of hip-hop's underground keep it moving.

    "Thugs Are Us [EXPLICIT LYRICS]" Trick Daddy Our price: $14.99 | You save: $2.98
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    Everybody's favorite Dirty South thug is back with another set of his catchy criminal music. Trick Daddy's filthy, ignorant rhymes and the funked-up production of his team bring gems like the upbeat James Brown-jacking single, "Take It to da House."


    "Cuts for Luck & Scars for Free [EXPLICIT LYRICS]" Mystic Our price: $12.32 | You save: $0.65
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    Bay Area singer/rapper Mystic could well be the next Lauryn Hill. She's got the vocal chops and the rap skills, plus a healthy dose of intelligence and social consciousness. The beats on her debut are covered by the Angel, Chops, and Spontaneous, underground royalty.


    "Genocide & Juice [EXPLICIT LYRICS]" Coup Our price: $11.97
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    Oakland's the Coup are amazing. Rapper Boots Riley is one of the most underrated MCs in hip-hop, astoundingly talented and yet seldom name-checked. He combines Ice Cube's anger and the razor-sharp wit of Oscar Wilde. Though Dead Prez may be making the most visible hardcore political hip-hop around, in some ways the Coup does it better: they've got a sense of humor and they've got the funk. With DJ Pam the Funkstress's turntable skills and Boots's brilliant lyrics, Genocide and Juice incorporates slithering funk grooves that would make George Clinton proud. This ain't Snoop.


    "Black Bastards" Kmd Our price: $14.22 | You save: $0.75
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    Never released due to its controversial cover, which features a Sambo figure being hanged, 1994's Black Bastards is a great testament to the early '90s' new school of rap, with its irreverence and glee. It's also well worth the wait, with a collage of upbeat jazz and hilarious rhymes, in the tradition of De La Soul's Three Feet High and Rising.

    "Operation: Doomsday" Mf Doom Our price: $14.22 | You save: $0.75
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    Years since his career in KMD, MF Doom is still making that molten music with his mouth. Though his rhyme style is more deliberate and less lighthearted now (no wonder, given that his partner-in-rhyme and brother was killed, and his record label didn't have the guts to put out his album), he's still a very creative artist. On Operation: Doomsday, he incorporates a comic-book theme into his rhymes, with archvillains and heroes duking it out in the album's interludes. With head-nodding, buttery beats and authoritative rhymes, Doom is back with a vengeance.


    "Hi-Teknology" Hi-Tek Our price: $13.99 | You save: $2.98
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    After making his mark working with Black Star and Reflection Eternal, Cincinnati rhythm king Hi-Tek is back with his very own album. Here, he further demonstrates his deftness with voluptuous bass-heavy beats, customized for A-list guest MCs.

    "Petestrumentals" Pete Rock Our price: $14.22 | You save: $0.75
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    Legendary producer Pete Rock is back with his own instrumental collection, part of the U.K.'s BBE Records' Beat Generation series. Rock's gorgeous, fat beats have always been some of the best in hip-hop, and here they hold their own, in spite of not having an MC to play off of.


    "Looking for the Perfect Beat: 1980-1985 [EXTRA TRACKS]" Afrika Bambaataa Our price: $13.99 | You save: $2.98
    ...more here.
    Although Afrika Bambaataa is one of the most influential DJs in the history of hip-hop, it's not easy to find his work if you're not a vinyl fiend. This new compilation fills the void. Part of Tommy Boy's 20th Anniversary Series, it includes all of Bambaataa's seminal sides, like "Planet Rock," "Renegades of Funk," and "Zulu Nation Throwdown."

    "Wild Pitch Classics [EXPLICIT LYRICS]" Our price: $11.97
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    Wild Pitch was one of the most important independent hip-hop labels of the early '90s, with acts like Gang Starr, Main Source, and Chill Rob G on its roster. This excellent collection compiles some of Wild Pitch's greatest moments, including tracks like Main Source's seminal "Live at the Barbeque," which includes Nas's blazing first recorded verse. It also features O.C.'s "Time's Up," an all-time classic, and the Coup's bumping "Dig It." A great introduction to the cream of the early-'90s underground.


    "The White Boy Shuffle" Paul Beatty Our price: $10.40 | You save: $2.60
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    Author Paul Beatty's been called the poet laureate of the hip-hop generation, and with good reason. It doesn't get much better than this book. Beatty is one of the most astute observers of race relations since Franz Fanon, and he actually has a sense of humor as well. The White Boy Shuffle is the type of book that will make you laugh so hard you cry, and vice versa. The characters are so vividly drawn, and the language so round-the-way that you'll feel like you're there. Brilliant!

    NEW AND NOTABLE Posted 2 MAY 2001

    "Second Nature"
    All Natural
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    Chicago crew All Natural are one of the most articulate, intelligent voices in the underground. When MC Avenger Capitol D took some time off after converting to Islam, many worried that All Natural would go AWOL. Fortunately, however, they're back with "Second Nature" on Chicago indie label Thrill Jockey, serving up more of those great beats and rhymes we've learned to expect from them.

    "Yin & The Yang [EXPLICIT LYRICS]"
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    One of the Wu-Tang's extended core, Cappadonna's sophomore set combines the familiar (his stream-of-consciousness, trademark-Wu flow) with the surprising (an appearance by Jermaine Dupri and Da Brat). "The Yin and the Yang" is certainly appropriately named.

    "Exit Wounds (2001 Film) [EXPLICIT LYRICS] [SOUNDTRACK]"
    Various Artists - Soundtrack
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    Given the violent histories of both DMX and Steven Seagal (on wax and on screen, respectively), it's no surprise that the soundtrack to their new movie, "Exit Wounds," is a little on the aggro side. With tracks from A-list MCs like Redman and Nas, it's an appropriate accompaniment to this street story.

    "Up Close & Personal [EXPLICIT LYRICS]"
    Angie Martinez
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    Being an MC may seem simple at first glance: you just have to rhyme words together. But hearing well-connected New York City radio personality Angie Martinez attempting to rock the mic makes one appreciate what a real MC sounds like, including those she features on her debut album (like Jay Z, Kool G Rap, and Snoop Dogg). Martinez should definitely not give up her day job, but some of the beats on "Up Close and Personal" are pretty tight.


    "Infectious [EXPLICIT LYRICS]"
    ...more here.
    Brooklyn's Jigmastas may have surfaced in the underground five years ago, but "Infectious" is their full-length debut. With beats from the excellent DJ Spinna, and substantial lyrics, they've got it made.


    "By Design [EXPLICIT LYRICS]"
    Grand Agent
    ...more here.
    Grand Agent's confident debut, "By Design," is straight-up, well-prepared hip-hop. The Philly native tussles nimbly with well-muscled beats of the DJ Premier school, as on "Rap Niggaz" and "From the Gate," dropping lines like, "To mics I do American things: Kill 'em." The moronically misogynistic "2 Bitches" is a low point, but he redeems himself somewhat with the poignant "You Don't Love Me," an eloquently told story of the rapper's quest to find his deadbeat dad, proof that even macho microphone fiends have a heart.


    "Endangered Species [EXPLICIT LYRICS]"
    Big Pun
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    Latino rapper Big Pun had an amazing way with words, and it shows on "Endangered Species," a collection of his greatest hits (including his collaboration with the Beatnuts, "Off the Books"), collaborations, and rarities. Though at first glance it might seem like an attempt to profit on his recent passing, "Endangered Species" is in fact a solid survey of the career of this pioneer.

    "Looking for the Perfect Beat: 1980-1985 [EXTRA TRACKS]"
    Afrika Bambaataa
    ...more here.
    Arguably the most important DJ in the history of hip-hop, Afrika Bambaataa's work has been hard to find on CD until now. "Looking for the Perfect Beat" should satisfy fans with a jones for Bam, as it includes all of his landmark slices of electrofunk ("Planet Rock," "Zulu Nation Throwdown") plus some rarities. It's a great addition to any collection.


    "Red Hot + Indigo"
    Various Artists
    ...more here.
    "Money Jungle," a fusion of hip-hop and jazz from the excellent Ellingtonian collection "Red Hot + Indigo," is a lushly orchestrated social critique that combines the considerable mic skills of "Black Star" (Talib Kweli and Mos Def) with bass great Ron Carter's brilliance.

    Go to "Money Jungle" download
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Editor, Elizabeth Mendez Berry associates of,bn,tower,cdnow

    "Welcome To Detroit"
    Jay Dee
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    Producer extraordinaire Jay Dee's first solo album provides further evidence for the Low End Theory. Beautiful, bass-heavy beats are accentuated by raps from some of his Detroit colleagues as well as soul singers and obscure samples.

    "Until The End Of Time [PA]"
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    Extremely prolific in life and in death, completed Tupac albums continue to surface: This one's a double album. Makaveli's still rocking the mic right.

    "Take It Or Squeeze It [PA]"
    The Beatnuts
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    Queens crew the Beatnuts continue to deliver their semi-winning combination of bouncy beats and insipid lyrics on their latest album. Treats include the first single "No Escapin' This" and the flute-laced "Mayonnaise."

    "Thugs R Us [PA]"
    Trick Daddy
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    Mr. Nan returns with another slab of dirty Southern hip-hop. Lead single "Take It to Da House" is a fat slice of funk, and the rest of the album is as much fun as you can expect from everybody's favorite thug.


    "Global Warning"
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    With one of 2000's tightest singles, "Top of the World" (featuring Barrington Levy before Shyne did), "Global Warning" is real hip-hop from top to bottom. Vancouver's Rascalz have been making intelligent, bangin' music for years, and with their third studio album they further demonstrate their ability to unite dope beats and rhymes.


    "All Hail The Queen"
    Queen Latifah
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    For those who don't know, before she had a TV show, Latifah got to be the Queen by being one of the best rappers around. She represents a perfect blend of intelligence, flow, and positivity. "All Hail the Queen" is one of the landmarks of late '80s rap, combining a funk aesthetic with Afrocentrism and womanism. And "Ladies First" is the anthem of a generation.

    "Lyte As A Rock"
    M.C. Lyte
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    On her 1988 debut, "Lyte as a Rock," savvy Brooklyn native MC Lyte balanced her obvious battle skills with perceptive street-corner observations, delivered fresh over funky drum-machine beats (provided by Audio Two and Prince Paul, among others). Delivering hilarious punch lines and a lot of attitude, MC Lyte is the template for serious female rappers who sell skills, not skin.


    "And It's Deep Too! The Complete... [BOX SET]"
    Richard Pryor
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    One of the greatest comedians ever, Richard Pryor's keen sense of humor and raunchy aesthetic provided a template for many rappers who like it R-A-W. Though rap tends to be more serious than Pryor, in general, many MCs cite him as one of their biggest inspirations: He was a gifted observer of ghetto life.


    "Rap Attack 3"
    David Toop
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    Originally written in 1984 and updated twice since then, David Toop's exhaustive, beautifully written chronicle of the birth and life of the hip-hop nation is written with a warmth and appreciation that escapes most books on the subject. Through many interviews with both old-school and new-school stars, and his own love for the beats, he adds a human element to this history.


    Marc Levin
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    Set in the late '90s slam poetry scene, one which has strong links to freestyle rap battles, "Slam" is one of the best hip-hop movies ever. Unlike many ghetto reality trips, "Slam"'s story is about personal creativity as freedom. Star Saul Williams (a poet in real life) imbues the movie with a gorgeous intensity and lyricism that makes most recorded rappers look like amateurs. A must-see.

Editor, Elizabeth Mendez Berry © 2001 and associate ncdn




reviews excerpted are copyright © 2001 & associate ncdn and CDnow, TowerRecords, Barnes & Nobel associates