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Hip-Hop Fridays: Ced's Album Reviews

Last week I passed through New Jersey and linked up with my #1 Hip-Hop music supplier - my man John and his hot independent music store - The Music Factory. John, a former concert promoter and D.J. is the ultimate Hip-Hop critic and brutally honest if you ask his opinion of new music. Several Hip-Hop artists know this to be true from first-hand experience. If you don't want your feelings hurt you may not want to ask John what he thinks of your music. So when I stopped by to pick up all of the latest albums worth paper currency we talked a bit about some of the newest releases, some of which John actually liked. The conversation got me to thinking about some of the latest trends in Hip-Hop music and where the sound is headed and as I made the rounds through N.J. and NYC, I must have listened to about 7 albums that have been released this year and talked to my Hip-Hop Brain trust about a few of the best. Today I offer my personal opinion and rating of a few. I rate on a scale of 1-10. 1 is a disgrace 5 is average and 10 is an all-time classic. Send me your e-mails regarding the albums that are in heavy rotation in your homes, rides and Walkmans. Even let me know which albums you think were a waste of your money. I will post some of the responses.

Common: Like Water For Chocolate Rating : 9.0

The Complete lyricist. Common's legendary conversation-like flow continues to evolve. He's deeper and wittier than ever. Combine that with the incredible production of The Soulquarians and guest appearances from D'angelo, Mos Def, Mc Lyte and Jill Scott and you have an album that envelops you. Like Water For Chocolate is an all-purpose album - it bumps in the ride; has enough live instruments and jazz flavor to serve as background music; more than enough conscience lyrical content and mic skills to satisfy the Afrocentrist and underground hip hop purist; and it even may work over a romantic dinner. Common's salute to Assata Shakur is very moving and again, something that only he would think of doing. My only complaint: Common, too, suffers from D.J.P.D. S. (D.J. Premier Deficit Syndrome) he continues the trend of hip hop artists who only put 1 or 2 tracks on a an album from the man who may be the best producer in the History of hip hop - D.J. Premier (To all my Dr. Dre fans: I said maybe the best producer). Recommendation: A Must Buy.

Beanie Sigel: The Truth Rating : 8.5

Deep. Philly's most impressive newcomer has the kind of picture-painting ability that we have only seen in Ice Cube, Slick Rick, Biggie, Nas and Scarface. He is on that level. Any doubters need only listen to " What Your Life Like" - which describes a stretch in a prison. One listen makes it impossible to ever forget Brothers locked up in jail. Then there is "The Truth" which is so hypnotic you could listen to it about 3 times in a row and not realize it. Not to mention the fact that Jay-Z puts in some of his best work in cameo appearances, The Truth has some of the sharpest production and mixing that I have heard in years. Supa Engineer DURO earned his stripes on this one. Listen to this one on your Walkman and you will see what I mean. Only complaint: Beanie, by the 4th track we already know how real you are, by the 13th track it gets a little redundant. Recommendation: A Must Buy.

DJ Quik: Balance and Options Rating : 7.0

Beats. I don't care what anybody says - you absolutely cannot front on DJ Quik's beats. I can't front - I have been down with Quik since 1991 but it wasn't until I spent a month in California, a few years back, that I was finally hooked. My East Coast friends continue to sleep on Quik, but it is their loss. The album is hot for the first seven tracks, including 2 tracks featuring Mausberg - who was tragically killed a few weeks ago. Quik puts his best work in on " We Came 2 Play", "Pitch In On A Party", and " Roger's Groove" (a tribute to Roger Troutman). Constructive criticism: DJ Quik is not anywhere near the best lyricist in the world but the great thing about it is that he would be the first to tell you that. His flow is not great but it is improving. Also the b-word makes one too many appearances for my taste but Quik does do some honest introspection and exhorts the Hip-Hop community to embrace peace and respect for one another. Recommendation: Give Quik a chance and you too, will not be able to front.

Lil Kim': The Notorious KIM Rating: 6.5

She is one of a kind. What can you say about her? You either love her, hate her or try to ignore her. Puffy put this album together very well. When it comes to putting an album together - where one song builds upon another - no one can touch Puffy. That is one of the reasons why Black Rob's album is so good. The arrangements actually flow together. A lot of artists, producers and record labels ignore this important element. Kim's flow is great at times and falters at others. I haven't met anyone who doesn't love her voice - so Brooklyn, so sweet. The best cuts are " Custom Made (Give It To You)", "Notorious KIM" which features Biggie (I can tell you it sounds like he was right there when they made this) and the cut is produced by Rockwilder who is definitely doing his thing on the boards. "Do What You Like" is also hot. Constructive Criticism: Limited Subject Matter. This album is about a few things too many times: Sex, Sex and ...uh...Sex. Throw in Kim's penchant for hustling dough out of Brothers and the possibility that her crew may be coming for you at any moment and you begin to think that 18 tracks makes this movie too long. By the way, KIM uses the b-word more than any guy I have ever heard. What to do? Her last track "Hold On" is a tear-jerker as she pours out her heart over Biggie. It really is touching and shows how much she really loves Biggie and the fact that she has been traumatized by his murder. I know many women will love this track featuring Mary J. Blige - it goes right through your heart. Recommendation: If you are a Kim fan already - you already bought this. If you aren't brace your self for the foul language and graphic descriptions and the possibility that you may have to wash your speakers out with soap after playing the album. She is one of a kind so I give it a buy recommendation with the previous mentioned qualifications.

Ruff Ryders Compilation: Ryde Or Die Vol. II Rating : 6.0

This ain't Ryde Or Die Vol. 1. Swizz Beats has his crown but there isn't enough of him on this one. I was shocked to see that he only produced 5 of the 16 tracks. The producers under his wing are good but it just isn't the same with out Swizz…The album starts off with a bang with " WW II" featuring Snoop Dogg, Scarface, Jadakiss and newcomer Yung Wun. With Snoop and Jadakiss on the same track you can't lose. In addition there are some winners on the album like the hit "Got It All" with Eve and Jadakiss and "Twisted Heat" with Twista and Drag-On and I love " Holiday" by Styles. But the song arrangement simply doesn't flow like it should and something else is just missing that I just can't put my finger on. Maybe you all can help with your comments. What is it about this album that isn't clicking? The only thing that I could think of is that my expectations were too high after last summer's classic Ryde Or Die Vol. 1. And I guess that is my problem and not the Ruff Ryders, I don't know... Recommendation: If you are a Ruff Ryders fan you have to cop it, you will get some enjoyment out of it. But if you are not a Ruff Ryders fan and don't know too much about them start with Volume 1 in order to get a whole feel for the Ruff Ryders family. Swizz Beats still has his crown, Ruff Ryders do their thing but this is not a highlight in an otherwise brilliant 3-year run. Send me your comments!

Cedric Muhammad

Friday, July 21, 2000

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