O. G. ORIGINAL GANGSTER
Ice-T (Sire 26492)
When Ice-T claims to be the "O. G. Original Gangster," he's not kidding. After all, he virtually invented L.A. gangsta rap years ago, thanks to albums like "Rhyme Pays" and "Power," and his starring role in "New Jack City" simply enhanced that reputation. As raps likes "Midnight" or "The Tower" demonstrate, he's a master of the genre, combining brutal beats with a breathless narrative for true edge-of-your-seat suspense. But he's also smart enough to push beyond the limits of the gangsta style, turning cliches into jokes ("Street Killer"), experimenting with the music (as in the rock and rap "Body Count"), even applying it as metaphor ("Mic Contract"). Proof once again that the original is -- still the best.
EMF (EMI 96238)
A decade after disco died and punk was pronounced a failure, the hottest sound in rock today fuses the guitar-fueled frenzy of alternative rock (i.e., punk) with the sample-powered rhythms of house music (i.e., disco). It's a sound with plenty of potential, and one of the few acts to understand just how much is EMF. As this English outfit shows with "Schubert Dip," samples can be used for context, not just texture, and guitars can add as much groove as grunge; as a result, the band's sound has as much depth as it does edge. Even better, the group's material appeals as much to the brain as the body, so that songs like "Children," "Girl of an Age" and "Unbelievable" end up danceable, hummable, and utterly irresistible.