Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesday 11/17 Street Date Album Reviews 50 Cent, Leona Lewis, Kid Sister And Rakim

via the New York Times

50 Cent 'Before I Self Destruct' (Shady/Aftermath/Interscope)

Taken as a whole this album has a pleasingly morbid tone, in keeping with the best moments from 50 Cent’s first two albums. But context is this album’s undoing. This summer he released a series of mixtapes and a book: both arrived, and disappeared, quietly. “Before I Self Destruct” is the ramblings of a stubborn heavyweight pushing retirement, not clever enough to replace declining agility with wit.

via the New York Daily News

Leona Lewis 'Echo' (J Records/Syco)
3 out of 5 stars

For Lewis' second swing at bat, she launched a makeover of her own, and not a moment too soon. "Echo" has a sense of fun, and a youthful vim, rarely on display on "Spirit." It's faster, harder and way catchier.

While "Spirit" favored flabby ballads, encouraging Lewis' naive will to show her chops, "Echo" focuses on trim, upbeat pop songs, inspiring in her a new sense of pith. She cut her showy melismas in half, hitting the melodies head on. Luckily, they're melodies worth hitting.

via the Los Angeles Times

Kid Sister 'Ultraviolet' (Downtown Music)
Three and a half stars (Out of four)

Chicago's hip-hop newcomer Kid Sister likes to talk up her girl-next-door appeal in interviews. While it's a safe bet that your neighbor isn't pals with Kanye West -- his DJ A-trak is Kid Sister's go-to producer -- "Ultraviolet" is brimming with the artist's down-to-earth candidness.

A two-time veteran of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Kid Sister's long-awaited debut is, first and foremost, an upbeat and futuristic club record. It also showcases her Midwestern work ethic and sense of humor. Over the ambient, Tangerine Dream-sampling "Let Me Bang," she's doing her laundry before hitting the dance floor, where she declares that she likes "to do it nice and slow." But don't get any ideas. "By that I mean my flow," she clarifies.

via the Los Angeles Times

Rakim 'The Seventh Seal' (Ra Records/Tuscan Villa/SMC Recordings)
Two and a half stars (Out of four)

The apotheosis of rap's first Golden Age, Rakim spent the lion's share of the 2000s mired in label purgatory at Dr. Dre's Aftermath Records. Sadly, the fruits of their collaboration remain unheard, with Rakim unwisely discarding the Dre beats in favor of a cast of mostly unknowns. Indeed, the "Seventh Seal" is undone by its boilerplate production -- rote drum patterns, predictable piano lines and antiseptic studio technique.

The rappers who have stayed artistically vital despite advancing age (Ghostface Killah, Scarface, Slick Rick) are champion storytellers who continue to burnish their craft. Rakim remains frustratingly opaque, with the brunt of his songs dedicated to rapping about rapping. The 41-year-old attempts to channel the ferocity of his Reagan-era rhymes while balancing a spiritual side ("Man Above") and romantic disposition ("You & I," "Psychic Love," "Still in Love.")

Source referenced articles:
NY Times - 50 Cent 'Before I Self Destruct' Album review
New York Post - Leona Lewis, 'Echo'
L.A. Times - Album review: Kid Sister's 'Ultraviolet'
L.A. Times - Album review: Rakim's 'The Seventh Seal'

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