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Rap ~ HipHop

    POSTED 8 AUGUST 2001

    "X.O. Experience [EXPLICIT LYRICS]" Tha Liks
    ...available here.
    For the best in hip-hop debauchery, look no further than Tha Liks' (formerly Tha Alkaholiks) new album. They may have changed their name, but their drunken b-boy stance remains the same, and on this album they showcase some of the bounciest beats on either coast.

    "The Saga Continues [EXPLICIT LYRICS]" P. Diddy
    ...available here.
    Speaking of name changes, the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy has put out another album, optimistically titled "The Saga Continues." It's more a compilation than an album, and it's predictably mediocre, but at least P. Diddy's environmentally conscious: his commitment to musical recycling continues, as he plunders everyone from Rakim to Black Rob to create second-generation radio hits.

    "Loyalty [EXPLICIT LYRICS]" Screwball
    ...available here.
    Repping the streetwise spirit of Queensbridge much better than Nas's misnamed latest project, "Queensbridge's Finest," Screwball's latest is the best in grimy, uncompromising hip-hop. Hardcore like M.O.P. and Kool G Rap, Screwball combine tight beats, tight rhymes, and a healthy dose of menace. What more could you want?

    "Reason [EXPLICIT LYRICS]" Beanie Sigel
    ...available here.
    Philly rapper Beanie Sigel's work with The Roots and Jay-Z got him noticed, but now he's strong enough to stand on his own as one of the most articulate and gritty storytellers around. With enough introspection to prove that he's a human being, and enough bravado to remain gangsta, "The Reason" is a great soundtrack for the streets.

    "Vol. 2-Chapter II [EXPLICIT LYRICS]" Wu-Chronicles
    ...available here.
    The Wu-Tang Clan's eccentricities have been well documented in tabloids and rap zines everywhere. But the latest Wu-Chronicles collection documents the musical methods to the group's madness. From Killah Priest's amazing collaboration with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, "Greyhound Part 2," to Method Man's latest saucy trio with D'Angelo and Redman, "Left and Right," it's all here and then some. A must for Wu-Tang fans.


    "Broken Silence [EXPLICIT LYRICS]" Foxy Brown
    ...available here.
    It's been three tumultuous years since Foxy Brown's last recording, during which she's gotten more space in gossip columns than in music magazines. Now she's back with a vengeance. While her 1998 sophomore set, "Chyna Doll" was disappointing, on "Broken Silence" Brown puts questions about her lyrical skills to rest. Though much of her previous material was ghostwritten by her mentor (and, apparently, manipulator) Jay-Z, on "Broken Silence," Foxy comes into her own. She's no lyrical genius, but here she uses her monotone flow to illuminate her notoriety, and the exploitation that she experienced from her first guest appearance at 15, making for a compelling listen. She's still providing fashion designers with free advertising, and she's no poster child for political correctness, but Brown's hardcore honesty and vulnerability are refreshing. The plentiful reggae flavor here, blended with gritty beats, also makes for a welcome change.
    Read more
    ...available here.


    "Lil' Romeo" Lil' Romeo
    ...available here.
    What with the No Limit empire in decline, Master P has done what any loving father would do: he's thrust his talentless 11-year-old son into the spotlight, armed with a sample from one of the few genuinely gifted kiddie groups in the history of pop music. Yep, the Jackson 5 rise from the grave once again, and, like Frankenstein, the results aren't pretty. Interestingly, like Kris Kross's 1991 smash, " Jump," it samples "I Want You Back." Coincidence? You decide. In anticipation of a showbiz career, P actually named his son Romeo, making the whole operation that much more simple. Just add a "Lil'" and some monosyllabic rhymes and you've got a Billboard sensation.

    "Beware of Dog" Lil' Bow Wow
    ...available here.
    Almost exactly 10 years after making Kris Kross famous, the Svengali of kinder-rap, Jermaine Dupri, "discovered" Ohio prepubescent Lil' Bow Wow. With access to the So So Def roster and JD's superior bouncy production, Bow Wow's puppy love and party rhymes are pleasantly inoffensive.

    "Hard Core [EXPLICIT LYRICS]" Lil Kim
    ...available here.
    One of the biggest personalities in the "Lil'" sweepstakes, Lil' Kim is 5 feet of dynamite. Since her feisty early appearances with Junior M.A.F.I.A., Lil' Kim has changed quite a bit. But underneath the Barbie-fied appearance, dubious fashion decisions, and that "Lady Marmalade" cover is a charismatic MC. Be warned: this diminutive wonder has one of the dirtiest mouths around. Full of more-bounce-to-the-ounce beats and female-centered freaky tales, Kim's debut, "Hard Core," is the best kind of guilty pleasure.


    The Best of the West The most important hip-hop group that you've probably never heard of, the Freestyle Fellowship actually deserve the phrase "ahead of their time." Both of the group's early-'90s albums rank among the most creative hip-hop albums ever. Made up of Aceyalone, Mikah 9, P.E.A.C.E., and Self Jupiter, they created the Los Angeles underground scene that spawned the likes of Jurassic 5 and the Dilated Peoples, and their styles have been bitten by countless mainstream artists, including Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Though the Fellowship has often been posited as the polar opposite of the g-funk scene that also emerged in early-'90s L.A., this South Central group weren't utopian rap hippies. Their music represents the troubled but loving marriage of poetic glimmer and gangsta strut.

    "To Whom It May Concern" Freestyle Fellowship
    ...available here.
    The Fellowship's long-out-of-print first album, "To Whom It May Concern," is now finally available again. It's a masterpiece of youthful exuberance, lyrical skills, and supple, jazzy rhythms. A treat for true hip-hop heads.

    "Inner City Griots [EXPLICIT LYRICS]" Freestyle Fellowship
    ...available here.

    The Fellowship's 1993 sophomore album (and first and only major-label release), "Inner City Griots," is amazing. With the astonishing lyrical acrobatics of each member combined with their b-boy bravado, it's an adrenalized ride from start to finish. Though the Fellowship are clearly influenced by jazz improvisation, their voluptuous beats are head-nodding enough for any L.A. lowrider to bump to.

    Check out more Underground Hip-Hop Essentials
    ...available here.


    "Do the Right Thing" Spike Lee
    ...available here.
    Representing the East Coast, Spike Lee's 1989 film, "Do the Right Thing" is one of the most poignant, colorful hip-hop flicks ever. It captures New York's hottest summer ever, both temperature-wise and in terms of the tensions between Italian Americans and African Americans in a Brooklyn neighborhood. It also features the best use of Public Enemy music in a movie, ever.

    "Boyz N the Hood" John Singleton
    ...available here.
    Representing the West, John Singleton's 1991 debut is one of the most important hip-hop movies ever. It captures the dreams and nightmares of teens in a South Central Los Angeles neighborhood. Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. shines in his first starring role, and Laurence Fishburne is great as his conflicted, well-meaning father. Singleton also manages to coax an excellent, nuanced performance out of gangsta-rap pioneer Ice Cube.

Editor, Elizabeth Mendez Berry associates of,bn,tower,cdnow

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Editor, Elizabeth Mendez Berry © 2001 and associate ncdn


    POSTED 11 JULY 2001

    "The Sneak Attack" KRS-One
    ...available here.
    Ever since his days in Boogie Down Productions, KRS-One has been criminal minded, the type of rapper who unites intelligence and a street mentality to overturn an oppressive system. His oversized ego and trademark boom-bap beats are present on his latest, "The Sneak Attack," and it's clear that KRS-One has no plans of slowing down for a long time.

    "Malpractice [EXPLICIT LYRICS]" Redman
    ...available here.
    Though he's recently become something of a celebrity, Redman has always been one of the more out-there rappers around. On his latest, the New Jersey native continues to poke fun at the bloated rap game of which he doesn't consider himself a part. Apparently, he "Can't get in da club," in spite of his many recent dancefloor hits with fellow stoner Method Man. "Malpractice" is a little long, and full of the unsettling imagery and misogyny that's so prevalent in macho madman-made hip-hop. You've been warned.

    "(Blacktrash) The Autobiography of Kirk Jones [EXPLICIT LYRICS]" Sticky Fingaz
    ...available here.
    Speaking of hip-hop eccentrics, former Onyx shouter Sticky Fingaz is back with his solo debut, "(Blacktrash) The Autobiography of Kirk Jones," which finds him in an unusually introspective mood. This high-energy album is a nice combination of Fingaz's reflections on life and his lyrical sharpshooting, as on the excellent, witty "What If I Was White," in which he drops gems like, "Yellow cabs in the cities would stop for me / I wouldn't need collateral to buy property."


    "Free City [EXPLICIT LYRICS]" St. Lunatics
    ...available here.
    There's nothing new about nepotism, and there's nothing new about Nelly's crew, the St. Lunatics. They like to rap about girls, money, and cars. And their beats sound almost exactly like Nelly's album. Fascinating.

    "Devil's Night [EXPLICIT LYRICS]" D12
    ...available here.
    Speaking of crews, Eminem's Motown mob D12 drop their first album, which features the hallucinatory single "Purple Pills" (radio edit: "Purple Hills"). Huh? Just when you thought it was safe to start drinking the Detroit water...


    "Cold Vein" Cannibal Ox
    ...available here.
    With Company Flow's El-P at the production helm, it's no surprise that New York's Cannibal Ox have put out a challenging, dissonant rap album. Uneasy listening, "The Cold Vein" is also one of the most interesting and apocalyptic albums to come out of the Big Apple in a while. MCs Vast and Vordul mix grimy street commentary with vivid surrealism, injecting El-P's lumbering, eerie production with more vividness.


    "The Best of Cold Chillin' [EXPLICIT LYRICS]" Biz Markie
    ...available here.
    One of the most fun-lovin' rappers ever, Biz Markie never took himself too seriously (unlike many of the young MCs of today). His irreverent rhymes and beatbox skills testify to a legacy beyond the crossover heartbreak hit, "Just a Friend," and this "Cold Chillin'" compilation covers the bases.

    "The Very Best of Big Daddy Kane" Big Daddy Kane
    ...available here.
    One of the most debonair rappers of all time, Big Daddy Kane represents the perfect union of rugged and smooth. His skill as a battle rapper is well illustrated on tracks like "Raw" and "Ain't No Half Steppin,'" but his superlover romantic persona was never far away. This collection of classic cuts captures Kane's amazing microphone prowess, and is a must for any hip-hop head.


    Cherchez le Ghost Of course, each member of the Wu-Tang Clan has his own particular shtick: there's Method Man's reluctant Casanova, ODB's insane clown, GZA's older wise man, and Raekwon's chef. But on the Clan's excellent latest album, "The W," one voice really stands out: Ghostface Killah's. He's an amazing MC, the stuff legends are made of. His verses on "I Can't Go to Sleep" are among the most haunting of this year, capturing the fear, sadness, and indignation felt by a ghetto elder. His first two solo albums are excellent too. In a recent interview, when the Beatnuts' Ju Ju was asked who his favorite MC is, he said without hesitation, "Ghostface Killah."

    "Supreme Clientele [EXPLICIT LYRICS]" Ghostface Killah
    ...available here.
    To paraphrase Chuck D, Ghostface Killah has got so much trouble on his mind, but he refuses to lose. "Supreme Clientele" is hardcore in the most courageous way. Not only does Ghost create street chronicles with unusual vividness, but he also demonstrates a willingness to explore his own vulnerabilities, and to use rap to bring the listener as far into his own experience as is humanly possible. He bares all emotionally, with a shaky voice and emotive lyrics, naked to a degree seldom seen in hardcore rap, and producer RZA rises to the occasion with appropriately eerie, soul-music-laced bangers. One of the best of 2000.

    "Ironman [EXPLICIT LYRICS]" Ghostface Killah, Mary J. Blige
    ...available here.
    Ghostface Killah's debut is a great introduction to the man's hardcore vulnerability. With hits like the racecar epic "Daytona 500," and the love thing "Camay," Ghost showed himself to be a versatile and deft storyteller, though his fragmented rhymes are less about straight narrative and more about atmosphere. RZA's production here is dark and soulful.



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