On The New Danger, Mos Def sings, "I am the most beautiful boogieman," over syrupy jazz. It's the sort of paradoxical statement that is indicative of the entire CD, making it one of the more interesting hip-hop albums to be released of late. As a rapper-poet-actor, this renaissance man sings and crafts complex rhymes while his music schizos between hip- hop beats, angry rock guitars and down-and-out blues. "Ghetto Rock" is similar to his work in Black Star, featuring old-school vocals, while "Freaky Black Greetings" manages not to say a whole lot, but the funk- plonk bass provides a great groove. "Blue Black Jack" with Shuggie Otis shines as a great hip-swaying blues number. By keeping listeners on their toes, Mos Def and his lovely smile are going to be around for a long time.
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Pressure Chief Columbia
I am a diehard lover of sweets. Cookies, brownies, anything chocolate ... but even I have had too much of Cake. The CD's artwork is the same design as every other Cake album, and the same holds for the music -- not much new ground is covered. Actually, that's not true -- nearly gone is the bright- and-sassy horn section, instead replaced by the band's hopping on the synthesizer wagon. While singer John McCrea's distinctive mono-melodic voice drones on, songs like "No Phone" are oddly reminiscent of the similarily monotoned They Might Be Giants. While the lyric "I'm a dime, I shine and I'm freshly minted" (from "Dime") makes me want to want to destroy with a Hulk- like ferocity, "Carbon Monoxide" saves the day with a fun pop sound that's beach movie-worthy. The album finally grinds to a halt with the short and sweet "End of the Movie," where McCrea intones the prediction: "People you hate will get their hooks into you."
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Handsome Boy Modeling School
White People Atlantic
The Handsome Boy Modeling School opened its doors in 2000 with the album So... How's Your Girl? School's back in session with their second CD, White People. DJs Dan "The Automator" Nakamura and Prince Paul are the geniuses behind Handsome Boy, assembling an eclectic jumble of artists to help them out. Fun hip-hop abounds (De La Soul and Casual), and Cat Power's solo piece is amazing, her smoky vocals used to Dusty Springfield success. A couple of songs immediately resonate, one being the dub-fueled "The World's Gone Mad" by Handsome Boy vet Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, Barrington Levy, and Alex Kapranos. Admittedly, there are a good share of downward dips, the solo featuring John Oates being a "what-the-hell?" moment, and the duet between Julee Cruise and Pharrell Williams (The Neptunes) is just dull and creepy. The album is overall a repeat of the first one, which isn't all that bad, but knowing how amazing Prince Paul and The Automator are, it frankly should've been an amazing glitter-filled pony ride.