CDs in brief

CDs in brief

Music: in concert, CDs

July 08, 2004

Capsule reviews of recent CD releases. Star ratings are out of four.

Lloyd Banks

The Hunger For More (G-Unit/Interscope) ** 1/2

On Lloyd Banks' solo debut, it's clear that cronyism has its benefits and drawbacks. As the first foot soldier in 50 Cent's G-Unit camp to spin off on his own, Banks is virtually assured of moving major units. His homie already unlocked the multi-platinum gates.

Yet unlike 50, who boasted a death-defying back story, new best friends Dr. Dre and Eminem, and bad boy appeal, Banks perhaps only knows by association what it feels like to be America's favorite thug. Here, he seems to strike some of the same notes that made 50 a star - melodic hooks, slick beats and his own mumbled monotone delivery.

But where 50 offers humor, a smirking arrogance and an anti-hero's jaded worldview, Banks rarely extends himself beyond mildly menacing gun talk and cocky punch lines.

Finally on the last track "Southside Story," when Banks reveals the horror he felt when he saw his first shooting death, does any vulnerability surface. Otherwise, besides the undeniably funky Eminem-produced club smash "On Fire" and the R&B-propelled ghetto love ditty "Karma," it's difficult to distinguish the uniqueness of the other tracks - musically or lyrically.

Don't blame Banks for taking his mentor's shtick and running with it. He's just satiating rap fans' actual hunger for more 50 Cent.

Lil Wayne

The Carter (Cash Money) * 1/2

Lil Wayne is a lyrical rap pro, no doubt about it. But his solo album is simply rehashed street swagger and has little of the ingenuity from his recordings with the Big Tymers crew.

Lil Wayne leaves you wanting something with rougher edges and saltier rhymes than his Cash Money Millionaire cohorts are best known for.

Some of his rap buddies drop in on several hot tracks, including Mannie Fresh on "Bring It Back" and Baby on "Get Down."

But this album falls prey to some hit-and-miss remixing.

Songs that beg for more energy, like "I Miss My Dawgs" featuring Reel, end up too subdued and subtle in contrast to Lil Wayne's sparkling voice. It feels as though most of the beats and melodies were crafted in a studio months before Lil Wayne even began to think about crafting a song or album around them. Stock and disappointing stuff.

On other tracks like "BM J.R.," Lil Wayne sounds like he's whispering when he raps about hollow-point bullets destined for street foes.

It's as though he sneaked into a recording studio when no one was looking and tried to record the track on the sly by keeping his voice down.

Lil Wayne is better than this, and with another team of studio pros The Carter might have fared better. As it stands, it's forgettable stuff.

Slum Village

Detroit Deli (A Taste of Detroit) (Priority Records) *** 1/2

For Detroit Deli (A Taste of Detroit) even to see the light of day is testament to Slum Village's remarkable resolve. The Motown underdogs have endured typical record biz hassles: bootleggers, indie label trouble and poor promotion.

When two of the three founding members jumped ship after successive releases, SV's future seemed bleak. In-house producer Jay Dee bolted for solo fortunes after their acclaimed 1999 debut, Fantastic Vol. 2. Then turbaned MC Baatin bailed after Trinity, a rambling 2002 effort that included the minor hit "Tainted." Less resilient groups would have quit.

Now down to one original member, rapper T3, and rhyme partner Elzhi, who replaced Jay Dee, the duo has produced an entertaining mix of radio-ready hits and atmospheric grooves.

Tapping new jack soulman John Legend and the prolific Kanye West for the girl-crazy first single, "Selfish," has indeed raised Slum's profile. Elsewhere, the disc boasts a variety of sonic styles from the synth-driven "Dirty" with Wu-Tang Clan's Dirt McGirt (formerly known as ODB) to the funk-laced "Do You" with MC Breed to the dancehall bounce of "Closer" featuring Dwele's hush-toned crooning.

This time, T3 and Elzhi balance their improved flows and ladies man rhymes with uplifting odes to single motherhood ("Old Girl/Shining Star") and ghetto survival ("Keep Holding On").

And on the confessional "Reunion," with Jay Dee on the beat and rhymes, the group reconciles its rocky evolution. With Detroit Deli, it's apparent the drama has only made Slum Village stronger.

Joe Nichols

Revelation (Universal South) ***

Joe Nichols delivers thought-provoking lyrics in his rich baritone on his new album.

As with his first album, Man with a Memory, the 11-track CD is dominated by ballads, which suit Nichols' style, although he has a rollicking good time with the two upbeat tunes. In "What's a Guy Gotta Do," lamenting the difficulty of landing a date, he sings, "Had an old man tell me, `Boy, if you were smart/You'd hit the produce aisle at the Super Wal-Mart'/So I bumped into a pretty girl's shoppin' cart/But all I did was break her eggs and bruise her artichoke hearts."

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