Reviews

Various Artists and

Bow Wow

Usually when a music man becomes a businessman (say, by being named an executive at Virgin Records), the music that plays loudest in his head goes cha-ching. And no disrespect to Clive, Quincy, or Jigga, but Jermaine Dupri hears this music clearer than most. Over the past year, J.D. has joined Virgin and redefined the careers of Usher and Mariah Carey through writing and production. But when artist J.D. metamorphoses into executive Jermaine Dupri and leaves the heavy lifting to his subordinates, his projects lose the plot.

On Young, Fly & Flashy, executive Jermaine Dupri seems to be doing a lot of this sleepy delegation. The album deploys seven producers who create cyborglike tracks that have as little personality as they do chart potential. Unsurprisingly J.D.'s sole production and the album's first single, "Gotta Getcha," is the brightest spot on the barely adequate, crunky compilation. Otherwise, mumble-mouthed braggadocio, volatile snares, and horror-movie melodies fill the album's vaguely Southern sound. Flashy is a case of Dupri sleeping on the job and not calling his employees in to finish their tracks.

But then again, maybe Dupri is just resting up for his other job. On Wanted, artist J.D. reunites with protégé Bow Wow to produce the most surprisingly great pop album of the year. Ballads are hot, so J.D. gives Wow his own "Let Me Love You," the shamelessly titled, shamelessly bongo-fied, shamelessly fantastic Omarion (whoa!) collaboration, "Let Me Hold You." The number onebound Ciara duet, "Like You," is even better. Atop a fuzz-laden sample of New Edition's "I'm Leaving You Again," Ciara sings scales like a good schoolgirl, while Boweezy gets all big-hearted (i.e., pimpy). It's popcorn love, if there ever was.

J.D. knows Weezy is now mature enough to stand up against a mean, mechanical 808, especially during Wanted's superior, sparse second half. (The fighter-and-lover setup means Bow Wow gets to make Radio and Walking with a Panther at the same time. Top that, Rick Rubin.) It's no coincidence that Weezy triumphs via a flow mostly cribbed from Dupri. This is as close as the megamogul can get to being in multiple places at once, and it's really good for business.

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Rich Juzwiak