More than a decade since Luther Campbell's 2 Live Crew grabbed the nation's headlines, South Florida still seems to be living in that outfit's shadow, saddled with the widespread notion that its hip-hop scene is just one long porn film. On Dirty Life Miami's latest rap hopeful, X-Con, doesn't exactly depart from his hometown's trademark sound of jittery beats and prominent synth lines, or its lewd lyrical tone. ("Whoa! Lil' Mama" offers a warning to a lap-dancing stripper -- "I don't care where you shake it/Just don't drip it in my cup" -- that would surely garner ol' Uncle Luke's approval.) What separates this gruff-voiced rapper from the current horde of gangsta-rap clones is his flair for vivid storytelling, gift for fashioning head-noddingly infectious hooks, and impassioned delivery that seems to summon up every ounce of his body's 285 pounds to drive home his gritty rhymes. Fuse all those traits, and you've got one of the past year's most memorable collections of songs.
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