Author

Tomika Anderson

Four years after rapping her way to a Grammy nomination with ”Ladies Night” (featuring Lil’ Kim and Missy Elliott), this New York City radio deejay releases her Latin-flavored hip-hop debut CD. Martinez opens up on the emotional ”Every Little Girl,” and ”Coast 2 Coast” with Wyclef Jean is catchy. But Up Close hosts more guests than a DJ Clue mix tape (Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes, Jay-Z), making it anything but personal.

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Ginuwine, The Life

On his third album, The Life, the R&B stud drops his hardcore playa pretense to reveal a softer, more vulnerable side. He pours his heart into songs like ”Two Reasons I Cry,” a somber requiem for his recently deceased parents, and ”Differences,” an emotional declaration to su amor. But it’s when he balances his Romeo routine with a funky club vibe (as on ”That’s How I Get Down,” with Ludacris) that Life gets really good.

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Big Punisher, Endangered Species

Unlike Biggie’s flimsy final opus, Big Pun’s meticulously produced posthumous album, Endangered Species, pays proper respect to the fallen hip hop heavyweight. Classics like ”Twinz (Deep Cover ‘98)” and ”Still Not a Player,” and previously unreleased gems like ”Mama” (featuring Boriquan balladeer Tony Sunshine) and ”How We Roll” (with Pun’s three children singing hook), breathe new life into the legendary Latin lyricist’s repertoire. Collaborators such as Fat Joe, Nas, Noreaga, and Raekwon also drop rhymes, making ”Species” the year’s first hip hop essential.

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As Marvin Gaye discovered in the ’70s, the right blend of intimacy and titillating sex grooves can create the sweetest aural potions. R&B crooner, songwriter, and producer Jon B masters that recipe on Pleasures U Like, his follow-up to 1997’s Cool Relax. Teaming up with Nas on the mid-tempo ”Finer Things” and with mentor Babyface for the melancholy ”Lonely Girl,” the newlywed hits the bull’s-eye with his beautiful love songs. A soulful smorgasbord.

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The bass-‘n’-booty king of the Dirty South’s got a brand new bag – and it’s stuffed with more T&A than the local strip club. True to his lecherous ways, his fourth release is full of nasty but wickedly delightful anthems, like the party-starter ”Pull Over” (featuring partner-in-rhyme Trina) or the hypersexed ”For All My Ladies.” Daddy’s gold-toothed, super-macho rap style may be crass, but it’s far too intriguing to ignore. B

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With the release of Part III, 112 give label boss Puffy at least one reason to rejoice: a Southern-fried sound garden of R&B’s sweetest fruits, honey-dipped harmonies, and breathtaking ballads. Tracks like the hit single ”It’s Over Now,” as well as a wistful ode called ”Missing You,” demonstrate this quartet has learned a lesson from their trifling, bump-and-grinding counterparts: True love conquers all.

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