P. Diddy, Eminem, Nelly, Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, and MeShell Ndegeocello

Beat Box

Phases and Stages

The radio plays 'em, they're on MTV and in the clubs, and at some point, we're humming them and buying the album. Then, of course, there's the remix. That's old news for Bad Boy producer P. Diddy Combs, 'cause he "invented the remix." Well, maybe not, but his entitlement has produced We Invented the Remix (Bad Boy), a sequel to an entire decade of rehashes, remakes, and remixes of remixes. Priding himself in producing beats that have already been produced, this stale curtain call for the dropped CEO drops the bucket back into a well that's been dry for years. As the curtain falls on one scene, the stage shifts to a sinister Slim Shady, star of The Eminem Show (Aftermath/ Interscope). The show's built around the mischievous mind of Marshall Mathers, as he mangles "White America" and the TRL hand that feeds him with anger, anger, anger. Like an afterschool special about counseling troubled youths, the puny featherweight bully punches pop peers, but never picks on somebody his own size. Opposite for the pop-hop icon Nelly, who's recently sought exile following a feud with Blastmaster KRS-One. Must be all that "Pimp Juice"; I heard they put it into the water in Nellyville (Fo' Reel/Universal), a small, unpopulated town of misogyny, ice, and "40 acres and a pool." "Splurge" and gluttony have replaced the populace of Country Grammar, and "Uh-oh," now Nelly can't go home. The self-proclaimed "No. 1" MC's sophomoric album indulges the good life, purchased on the credit of the listener, but unlike Graceland, don't take this yawning "King's Highway" to Nellyville. It's all a big Masquerade (Columbia), as Wyclef Jean makes his third attempt at shattering the Fugee façade that's left diva-counterpart L. Hill with all the longevity. Still searching to sell that ecleftic sound, Clef continues experimenting with multitudes of cameos and genres that at times work briefly, but mostly don't. Now back to the real Fugee story, an Unplugged (Columbia) Lauryn Hill and her acoustic guitar. Back from tabloid torment and speculation, Hill returns to the stage raw and stripped down. No longer Ms. Educated or Ms. Understood, Hill entertains in an intimate, coffee-shop-open-mic style, which she dictates through seven long interludes well-suited for DVD, but not for an album. Neither Fugee is a real Score. From one scattered diva with a guitar to one well-centered female bassist who got her "priorities 1-6," MeShell Ndegéocello. Neither lady pulls her punches, but on Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape (Maverick), Ndegéocello hits harder. Heavy in every way, from steamy sexual subject matter to drowning bass-concentrated rhythm, Cookie delves into all genres, from funk to jazz to rock, combining poetics, and then utilizes its entirety to conquer misconceptions on race, sex, politics, and all the alternatives. Most luscious of the bunch, the delectable Cookie can satisfy all sweet teeth.

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