Review ·

The vague line separating hip-hop from R&B grows progressively dimmer. Everywhere the frustrated radio listener turns, the same formula repeats itself: "hardcore" verse over limp funk followed by your pick of digitally sculpted soul sirens singin' sweet words. Both the prospective playa and his sister are pleased. I'm wetting myself over the marketing potential alone.


See, you've got main offender Ja Rule (or alternate Fat Joe) rippin' his tough street talk with backup love from Ashanti, Aaliyah, Aisha, Aruba, her sister Bermuda, Bahama pretty mama. Enter half-assed sax solo. While you're at it, drag multi-media wonderslut J.Lo and her million-dollar ass along for the oh-so-lucrative ride. Everyone's happy.

This horrifying trend only continues to spread. Top secret reports surface involving crossover potential in the overseas market. Do they really think they can get away with this? Upon entering the (enhanced) CD into one's personal computer console, a video for "Alephuo (truthspeaking)" appears featuring veteran Japanese turntablist DJ Krush, some wicked background patterns, and Angelina Esparza, a generic, English-language diva of indeterminate age who is ailed by the very same bug that has spread through the cast of interchangable American songtresses. There is an unspoken rule in modern R&B that during a move from one chord or key to another, one must place as many vocal notes as possible between the two. Sounding strained is encouraged. It's professional ululating. This does not look good for Mr. Krush.

To the Western world, Krush is the biggest name in Japanese hip-hop. He has for quite a while leaned closer and closer to a smooth-jazz idiom, with highly varied results. The record's best moment comes early in the form of some rousing verse in MC Inden's native tounge. Maybe it's just refreshing to hear Japanese rhymes as an alternative to the usual bling bling. The first couple of tracks boast some very heavy beats, but Krush simply recycles the same riff for much of the first half of the album.

Some interesting guests show up, though Anti-Pop Consortium's words get lost underneath that same sample pattern. And the white boys from Anticon have Hussein on the membrane, but they might be more successful if they could stop trying to sound so fucking tough. Their good-natured gesture toward little Johnny Walker the terrorist is nothing if not confusing and muddled, though they almost achieve success with the line "He wanted Hammer pants/ He joined the Taliban" (pronounced to sound like Steeleye Span).

At least "The Blackhole" displays some variation, as Krush seems to have discovered the "delay" button on his sampler. The car siren-sounding noise hanging in the background certainly sounds evil enough. Then of course there's that annoying urban cyber-ballad about truth-speaking. The Eastern-style string loop from "But the World Moves On" is interesting for a couple of minutes. But hold your breath, the worst is yet to come in the final track, "What About Tomorrow." He should be ashamed of this faux-reggae nonsense, with guest vocalist Abijah jiving on lazily about those poor youths, the truth and just "let(ting) the children free," over some K-Mart island beats. Pure bullshit. There's really nothing else this offensive on the record, but after six or seven albums from Krush, you'd expect more than an overwhelmingly generic DJ set.

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