Rapper Young Buck back on top
Young Buck, “Buck the World,” (G-Unit/Interscope)When Young Buck’s debut, “Straight Outta Cashville,” dropped in 2004, it was easily regarded as the best solo disc from 50 Cent’s G-Unit crew of chart-topping soldiers. But oh, how times have changed.Recent releases from Fiddy affiliates – Lloyd Banks and Mobb Deep – have received critical yawns and generated moderate sales. Young Buck’s sophomore disc, “Buck the World,” gives adequate evidence that the current G-Unit slump may soon change.Buck succeeded his first time out because he coupled a boisterous New Orleans charm with soulful production. Now, he attempts to add dimension to his single-minded gangsta persona. On the sentimental “Slow Ya Roll,” Buck reflects on his own familial struggles and an aunt with AIDS: “It’s (messed) up, ’cause her life’s gonna end/And it’s (messed) up twice, she gonna die in the pen.” Meanwhile, on the title track, featuring an achingly crooned chorus from Lyfe Jennings, he grapples with baby mama-drama and emergent stardom.However, Buck has not turned completely into Mr. Sensitivity. Snitches, assorted women and weaker rivals all feel his gun-bucking ire over beats that knock with immense horns and orchestral menace. At 19 tracks, Buck’s sheer enthusiasm to threaten becomes nearly heart-numbing. But ultimately, Buck, like a Southern 2Pac, manages to sound magnetically brash and believable.- Brett Johnson
Jennifer Lopez, “Como Ama Una Mujer” (Epic)The promotional machine that is Jennifer Lopez makes much of her ability to seemingly do it all. She dances, acts, sings, designs. Her newest production is “Como Ama Una Mujer,” Lopez’s first album sung entirely in Spanish.It is the work of “the best songwriters, arrangers and musicians in the Latin world,” according to her team, and is co-produced by Julio Reyes and salsa star Marc Anthony, Lopez’s husband.Indeed, the album has an intriguing pop sound – a sophisticated and understated production. It might actually have worked had this been put into the hands of a stronger vocalist. But the power-ballad-heavy selection spotlights Lopez’s limited range, and a voice that unfortunately lacks texture and character.
The opening song on this 11-cut album may be the most memorable due to interesting rhythmic and melodic combinations. On “Que Hiciste?” (or “What Did You Do?”) the vocals speak of love gone horribly wrong, and has Lopez telling of her soul being broken. But there is little expression of that anger or pain. And if one is going to enter into the world of Latin love, one better be capable of delivering vocals that are soaked in passion and rage.Alas, the cool and removed nature of Lopez’s voice leaves this album in the realm of unadventurous pop. And perhaps that is all it is meant to be.- Michelle Morgante
MIMS, “Music Is My Savior” (Capitol Records)Rapper MIMS has stolen the thunder from more than one New York MC. While Papoose and Saigon, two of the prematurely anointed saviors of East Coast hip-hop, await their major label release dates, MIMS’s massive radio hit “This Is Why I’m Hot” has made him a national star.Ironically, that breakthrough track owes more to Dirty South, molasses-drip funk than any Rotten Apple-style sample-based beat. And MIMS dialectical boasts – “I’m hot cause I’m fly/ you ain’t cause you not” – recalls Yung Joc’s minimalism rather than Jay-Z’s poetry.On his solid debut, “Music Is My Savior,” MIMS manages to find a happy medium between rap’s regional and stylistic extremes. His cocky, deliberate flow sounds at home over the rolling G-funk of “Big Black Train.” And on “They Don’t Wanna Play” featuring Bun B and Seed, MIMS is all gun-busting bravado amid the warped vocal snippets, glistening synths and Southern bounce.But the unavoidable success of “This Is Why I’m Hot” looms large over the disc. “Superman” is a similarly hook-heavy shot of bombast with MIMS proclaiming: “I’m fly, I’m fly.” The ditty’s bare-bones beat is nearly as irresistible as his signature hit, and perhaps proof that if MIMS keeps echoing his worth, we soon might all be believers.- Brett Johnson