"X.O. Experience [EXPLICIT LYRICS]"
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]"
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]"
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]"
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
"Vol. 2-Chapter II [EXPLICIT LYRICS]"
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.
CALL IT A COMEBACK
"Broken Silence [EXPLICIT LYRICS]"
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.
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
"Beware of Dog"
Lil' Bow Wow
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]"
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
"To Whom It May Concern"
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.
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
"Do the Right Thing"
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"
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
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"The Sneak Attack"
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]"
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]"
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
"Free City [EXPLICIT LYRICS]"
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.
"Devil's Night [EXPLICIT LYRICS]"
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...
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
FROM THE VAULTS
"The Best of Cold Chillin' [EXPLICIT LYRICS]"
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
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.
SPOTLIGHT: GHOSTFACE KILLAH
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]"
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
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.
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