David Browne
June 27, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT


Current Status
In Season
Busta Rhymes

We gave it a C-

”The Heist,” a track on Busta Rhymes’ new album, ”Anarchy,” could easily be a ”Sopranos” episode. With guest stars Raekwon and Ghostface Killa of the Wu-Tang Clan, it chronicles in minute detali a diamond robbery at the swank Tiffany’s in New York. Some of the lyrics are amusing (they down chocolate milk before the crime), others are adolescent playacting (telling ”them Jewish niggas” to step away from the counter).

What’s sad is that those are some of the few coherent lines on Rhymes’ fourth and weakest work. It opens with simulated newscasts about ”political and social disorder” — the Amadou Diallo and Columbine murders, the Elián Gonzalez incident — but the commentary ends there. The album is anarchic, all right; it’s a jumble, with Rhymes’ garbled lyrics and gravel-road voice set to a series of numbing, lusterless beats.

Although ”Show Me What You Got” is based on a sultry Stereolab sample, most of the music is only slightly more interesting than Morse Code. The spew that is ”Get Out!!”, the first single, samples the kiddie song ”The Ugly Duckling” the way Jay-Z did ”Annie”’s ”Hard Knock Life,” but to lesser effect. The perfunctory cameos range from poignant (Jay-Z’s elegy to dead friends in ”Why We Die”) to numskulled (Spliff Starr’s ”Causin’ blood spillage like a faggot from the Village” in ”Here We Go Again”).

Rhymes himself is at a curious crossroads. He’s a full-on celebrity now, complete with his own record label, designer clothing line, and acting career. More power to him, but he’s in danger of being better known for his cartoonish image and dreadlocked ponytail than for his music. The decline can already be heard on ”Anarchy”: His wild-eyed rapping sounds strained, as if he feels he still must live up to his first name. C-

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