Author

James Bernard

For almost 10 years, Heavy D has been the ”Overweight Lover” — a cuddly, oversexed love machine. Almost every song on Waterbed Hev wraps a heartfelt, amorous greeting card around a familiar, luscious R&B hook. The catchy choruses might be just this side of bubblegum, but they also have a way of lodging themselves inside people’s heads. You could build a career on that. B

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These two grandfathers of hip-hop don’t demand to be remembered for who they were back when they fronted Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Right Now’s melodic bass lines, soft keyboards, and cautionary tales of fast lifestyles are completely modern. Passing the mic back and forth in true old-school fashion, Grandmaster Mele Mel and Scorpio are as engaging as they were in the early ’80s. B

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Lil’ Kim raps so frankly about sexual issues, she could make Snoop Doggy Dogg blush. She’s not, however, a gimmicky, potty-mouthed female act. Her riveting stage persona — a woman living amid guns, illegal business, and predatory men — is complex and well-rounded. She’s skilled, too, rhyming with ease over the silky subtle grooves of Hardcore, her debut album.

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Stakes Is High may be the title of the latest De La Soul album, but for hip-hop superproducer Dr. Dre, no phrase could better describe Dr. Dre Presents… The Aftermath. The inaugural release on his Aftermath label, it is also Dre’s first music since his acrimonious departure from Death Row Records and his attempt to distance himself from the current shallow state of gangsta rap.

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As leader of this hip-hop supergroup including Westside Connection and Mack 10, Ice Cube seems to be following trends instead of creating them. Ironically, the man who pushed gangsta rap beyond its limits in both N.W.A and his solo work is reduced to exploiting a largely irrelevant East Coast-West Coast rivalry in Bow Down. And the beats, while funky, are so yesterday. C

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The Houston trio Geto Boys must be the most durable group in hip-hop, having survived Bushwick Bill’s self-inflicted gunshot wound and a bitter breakup. Now, five years later, the original lineup is back, heaving the mike with familiar heavy-handed vocal styles and graphic lyrics about ghetto life on The Resurrection. What makes this their best work is the album’s festive mood, despite its harsh subject matter. B+

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The Canadian quartet Odds specializes in tight, highly structured rock, driven by a twin-guitar attack just this side of sloppy and harmonies just this side of twangy. Good Weird Feeling is a mixed bag: As catchy as ”Truth Untold” is, ”I Would Be Your Man” is formless and tedious. For emotional substance, check out ”The Last Drink,” a heart-tugging goodbye to a departed friend. C+

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