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50 Cent
The Massacre
Shady/Aftermath/Interscope

Can anyone tell me why other than, say, his penchant for being a pincushion for stray ammunition, that 50 Cent sells so goddamn many records? For one, his lisp-y flow is mediocre at best, the Vanessa Carlton of The Hood. He disparages women every second song, tirelessly spins tales of numbnut gunplay, and attempts to sell us on more flossing than anyone since Oral-B. At the same time, he sounds positively queer as folk on songs like the ostensible diss track, "Piggy Bank," in which he takes on Nas, Jadakiss, and Fat Joe (Fifty might be able to wipe his ass with twenty dollar bills, but all three of the above could wipe the floor with him in a freestyle battle) and "Candy Shop," which continues the rap fascination with girls-as-sweets metaphors. Fitty sounds downright bored on this song, as if...as if...perhaps he doesn't even care about the girl he's speaking to! Like...he just wants to get in her pants, and doesn't care about her at all! (Gasp!) Then again, who wouldn't be bored singing choruses like "I take you to the candy shop/I'll let you lick my lollipop/Go 'head girl, don't you stop/Keep goin 'til you hit the spot"? If that's not enough, he later describes the club he's in as being "hot as a teakettle." Lollipops?

Teakettles? Piggy banks? One appreciates the let-up from all the gangsta proselytizing, mind you, but if I wanted songs about lollipops and teakettles and piggy banks I'd rather hear it from Vic Chesnutt.

50's recent spat with Compton rapper The Game (since settled, in case you're one of those people that gives a shit about such things) stemmed in part from 50's contention that The Game was after his (imagined) crown as hip-hop kingpin. His protege may not yet be there sales-wise, but musically speaking it's cut and dry: Game, set, match.

Track to burn: Baltimore Love Thing

Rating: 1/2

-Timothy C. Davis

Cyril Morin
Western Pansori-
Milan
The exotic mix of eastern accents and western dance rhythms is by now a staple in world music and electronica, and while there are more than enough cliched examples of this musical meeting of East and West, it still yields pleasant results on occasion. And given the culture clash between the West's crusading materialism and reactionnary elements in the East, cultural hybrids like French composer Cyril Morin's Western Pansori are a vital form of musical detente.

Morin is well-known in France for his film scores, but this is meant as a stand-alone record, and works as such. With the haunting voice of Kakoli Sengupta driving the opening track, "Rivers On My Skin," and the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra providing a lush canvas for Ana Rago's programmed rhythms and keys throughout, many of Morin's cuts recall the early '90s work of William Orbit's Strange Cargo series. Other successfull compositions include "Twilight Garden," essentially a classical piece recalling both Satie and Dvorak, and the record's most adventurous song, "Superkids," which somehow adds Curtis Mayfield guitar funk to the mix without making you erupt in laughter.

Not everything works, however. "Don't Be Worried" features a child's treated whisper throughout, an effect that becomes tedious in short order; "Lean On Me" (not Bill Withers' tune) features Morin singing, and while his voice is passable, the words are downright Madonna-esque. These are quibbles, overall, as Morin's cinematic touch extends beyond the parameters of film for a relaxing, rewarding listen.

Track to burn: Rivers On My Skin

Rating:

-John Schacht

William Parker
Luc's Lantern
Thirsty Ear
Those familiar with William Parker from his work with such musical explorers as Cecil Taylor, Peter Brötzmann and David S. Ware might be surprised to hear some of his solo recordings. Luc's Lantern is a good example of Parker's more subdued work. A trio date with pianist Eri Yamamoto and drummer Michael Thompson, it spends more time on the inside than the outside.

The disc opens, fittingly, with the pulse of Parker's bass in "Adena." Yamamoto's chords initially sound like a riff to accompany a soloist, but she and Parker soon turn them into the harmonic and melodic structure of a very bluesy, soulful tune. The same approach is used on several other songs, creating the tone of the album. There are passages, of course, where the players take excursions into looser, more abstract realms, but both Yamamoto and Parker have a gift for remaining connected to the rhythm and melody while they explore. Only two songs have the more aggressive qualities listeners might expect. Parker has found excellent partners to help him explore this side of his song writing.

Track to burn: "Phoenix"

Rating:

-Brian Falk

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