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Jay-Z & Timbaland »

What do you get when you take the greatest living rapper and the greatest hip hip producer. You get one hot album. Sign the petition and lets make it happen.

by kenn on 1/07/2004 11:55:00 PM

More Of The Best

Whatever happened to the days when the boys picked up a guitar to score chicks and a mike to call 'em bitches and hos? Commercial hip-hop and hard rock swapped archetypes last year like every day was Freaky Friday; the nü-grunge/nü-metal droogs saw ladies as little more than sperm receptacles—annoying ones at that—whereas bling-blinged thugs were scouting prospects "Big Poppa"-style who should be havin' their baby, baby. This mix represents both endlessly confounding, entertaining spectrums:

1. Fabolous, "Into You" (Elektra) Amid some reasonably legit cries of sellout, the rail-thin rapper finally crossed over into Ma$e territory with sellout acquiescence specialist Ashanti chiming in on the chorus. Sighing that "being a player was becoming too stressful," F-A-B-O asked the object of his desire what she'd think "if both our names had Jackson on the ends" and leagues of voyeurs swooned in unison. Makes monogamy sexy and intriguing in a way that archconservatives never had the tongues, beats, or brains to advertise and does so to a relaxed, smooth, modest summertime groove.

2. 50 Cent, "21 Questions" (Shady/Aftermath) I could listen to Fitty poke caged deer Ja Rule with AK butts all day, but this clever romantic barrage was just as responsible for his explosive sex appeal as the endless six-packin' rag covers. It's the slow jam for the modern prom and should hold up a decade from now just as well as "Don't You (Forget About Me)" and comparable '80s dreck does today. Em's protégé keeps us blushing with silly, affable similes ("I love you like a fat kid love cake") but peppers the titular queries with unexpected depth and foresight. Another excellent best-of-both-worlds pairing, courtesy of Nate Dogg's easy rider choral crooning.

3. Snoop Dogg, "Beautiful" (Priority) Snoop D-O-double-G? Well, the man's a budding porn mogul and a self-proclaimed modern-day pimp, and women accuse him and his crew right and left of misbehavior that makes Arnold Schwarzenegger look like Clay Aiken. Yet, along come overexposed Pharrell and Chad, who not only delay their own inevitable backlash but prolong the budding reality-TV star's fading MC career with a soft, tenderhearted groove so simple, well, shit: The title says it best. Yeah, yeah, technically the record came out last November, but Snoop's live performance of "Beautiful" was the one saving—hell, nearly transcendent—grace of MTV Films flop The Real Cancun.

4. Pharrell ft. Jay-Z, "Frontin'" (Star Trak) Speaking of Pharrell, you bet we're all sick to fuckin' death of his bare chest and trucker-hatted dome muggin' like Diddy 2003 all over our MTV. And sure, he's the least likely player in the game to brag about slapping his girl around, but the Jacko-influenced, mature guitar swing of "Frontin'" is rivaled only by "Into You" on the pure sweetness tip. Nice idea, admitting that posturing is just that, and behind the facade there's a real man ready to be, yes, just that. This kind of modest stocking stuffer is exactly why the Neptunes not only can't be discounted, but are still ensconced at the top of the game.

5. Nas, "I Can" (Columbia) Like 50, another example of a proud soldier taking a sabbatical from a mixtape death match to somehow concoct an impeccable sugary delight. The singsong empowerment anthem is an inspiration to kids without being juvenile or condescending. His light-speed yet completely comprehensible African-history lesson is the obvious talking point, but the most responsible and kindred? Encouraging little girls not to "pretend to be older than you are," although his vision of said girls getting hitched and being another man's "queen" is, admittedly, more than a bit outmoded.

6. Korn, "Right Now" (Sony) Korn haven't been convincingly menacing or surprising since their influential 1994 debut. This was a welcome, if upsetting, return to form, a blood-soaked, ugly, misanthropic single about unmitigated hate. In the strobe-ready bridge, Jonathan Davis hisses, "You open your mouth again, I swear I'm gonna break it," before unloading "Shut up, I'll fuck you up!" While it's fairly clear that his sounding/striking board isn't necessarily his lady, "Right Now" has that creepy, do-they-really-know-how-they're-coming-off vibe Linkin Park exuded when they introduced themselves via "Shut up when I'm talking to you!" Careful, fellas. There's a thin line between satire and perpetuation.

7. Limp Bizkit, "Eat You Alive" (Interscope) Fred Durst has recently propagated his own fading celebrity by owning up to a litany of long-shot celebrity crushes, including Angelina Jolie, Halle Berry, and Thora Birch, starlet of this track's video, in which she's kidnapped, bound, and informed via megaphone, "There's nothing wrong with wanting you. You got that straight?!" before the more tender concession: "Damn, you're so hoooooot!" Met only in offensive hilarity by the Bizkit's as-yet-unreleased "Just Drop Dead," a thinly veiled Britney bitch-slap. Freddie's one of the more disturbing rock and roll "ladies men" since Vince Neil, likely headed toward the same all-you-can-eat buffet of infamy.

8. Cold, "Stupid Girl" (Interscope) Vocalist Scooter Ward looks and sounds like Staind's Aaron Lewis after a few lipo sessions. His band has long played to Uncle Fester type, and nobody gave a damn until they enlisted Rivers Cuomo to co-write this turgid single. As if we needed any further evidence of Cuomo's inability to say anything remotely pertinent or witty post-Pinkerton, "Girl" flaunts the most puerile, goofy opening lyrical salvo of the year: "Wanna love ya, wanna bug ya, wanna squeeze ya, stupid girl." Only a stupid guy could've put it so, er, maladroitly.

9. Nickelback, "Figured You Out" (Roadrunner) Unlike his obvious idol, Jesus Christ, Nickelback leader Chad Kroger is one of those guys who's so overtly macho that he snorts like a dragon when damsels are in distress ("Too Bad"), but ultimately blows actual relationships so badly ("How You Remind Me") that manipulation is easier than keeping it real. This latest thudding single features nü-grunge's saddest attempts at blatant, carnal sexuality possibly ever—"I like your pants around your feet, and I like the dirt that's on your knees"—then gets inadvertently weird when Kroger fesses to the same lady, now unconscious, that "I love my hands around your neck." Ah, dames!

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