Control Machete

With Uno, Dos: Bandera (One, Two: Flag, continuing their addiction to horrible album names), Monterrey's hip-hop kings of Control Machete honor their name: the machete attitude (direct but subtler than Molotov's) coupled with self-control. That's why the songs never explode and, in another unusual twist, don't settle into a groove either. See, Control Machete's main card is its production values and ability to make a collage of folk soundtracks filled with one-liners. When they begin to sound too much like Cypress Hill, they bring you right back to Monterrey with priceless regiomontano memorabilia. In "El Genio del Dub," a cover of one of the best (and most underrated) songs ever recorded by Argentina's Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, CM respects the original language while creating a weird but irresistible Mexican-porteño slang. Molotov's Randy Ebright (a.k.a. El Gringo Loco), arguably Mexico's best rapper (he was born in Detroit, but he's earned his Mexican identity), shines in "Ahora"; and Natalia Lafourcade, intelligently exploited for her first-rate singing, kills in "Apostador" ("Gambler"), a soulful answer to Bacilos's dreadful hit "Mi Primer Millón" ("My First Million"). The Machetes want to make a million at the racetrack, not on the radio charts. But this album will take them closer to the mainstream than they (or we) ever thought possible.

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