Reviews

Various Artists

Who stole the soul? Add Rawkus Records, the label that puts out the Lyricist Lounge series, to that list. In hip-hop the name of the record label often carries as much weight as the artists themselves when it comes to influencing sales (see Cash Money Records). Armed with arguably the two most gifted, socially relevant lyricists in the rap game today (Mos Def and Talib Kweli), Rawkus Records set forth in 1997. The label provided a musical sanctuary for hip-hop purists growing more and more disenchanted by the music's steady shift toward a money, glitter, and thug ethos (see Cash Money Records again). Unfortunately this album sounds like Rawkus Records and Cash Money Records spent the summer bowling together.

Lyricist Lounge 2, with guest appearances by Ghostface Killah, Beanie Sigel, and Nate Dogg, suspiciously smacks of "let's expand our fan base." The seemingly interesting pairing of Mos Def and Ghostface Killah ("Ms. Fat Booty 2") comes off sounding cold-cash calculated. The track couldn't drop more dead if Mos Def were trading verses with Tupac Shakur. And while we're on the deceased rapper tip, the album fails to live up to the brilliance of its intro, a fierce 40-second freestyle by Notorious B.I.G. recorded back in 1993. On the track "Sharp Shooters," a schizophrenic Talib Kweli, whose line "Your firearms are too short to box with God" was one of the most memorable on 1998's Black Star album, does an about-face when he teams up with Dead Prez with a chorus that runs, "I'm one with my gun/I love it like my first son." Hi-Tek's production on this track is on par with anything on Reflection Eternal's recent Train of Thought, but hard-core Kweli fans undoubtedly will have trouble vibing with his pro-NRA lyrics.

Coming more consistent with his subject matter is Beanie Sigel on "Get That Dough." As you can see, this isn't your backpack-wearing older brother's Rawkus Records. And we haven't even gotten to JT Money's track. Sounding almost like a joke played by the album's sequencer, "Watcha" blows up the speakers with that signature Miami-bass bounce, injecting Lyricist Lounge 2 with all things jiggy. How committed is Rawkus Records to getting in touch with its Cristal-sippin' inner child? Check out Big Noyd thugging it up alongside retro-soulstress Macy Gray, then press your index finger firmly on the skip button.

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Roberto Diaz