dud of the month:

NAS: I Am . . . (Columbia)Nas covers his ahzz. If in one song he's "wetting" (lovely word) "any nigga" (another) his fellow playa Scarface doesn't like, in another he's fomenting revolution: "Combine all the cliques and make one gang." Yeah sure. The question is how convincing he is, and only two themes ring true: the bad ones, revenge and money. His idea of narrative detail is to drop brand names like Bret Easton Ellis; his idea of morality is everybody dies. Ghostface Killa's "Wildflower" is far more brutal than the she-cheated-while-I-was-playin "Undying Love," and far less bloody; Biggie's "Playa Hater" is far more brutal than the Wu-Puff cameo "Hate Me Now," and far more humorous. Blame his confusion and bad faith on a conscience that's bothered him ever since he bought into the Suge Knight ethos. I've never met a ho in my life. This kind of sellout starts with a "W." B Minus

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Honorable Mention:

Terry Allen, Salivation (Sugar Hill):for an artist, a pretty good songwriter and a fine village atheist ("X-Mas on the Isthmus," "Salivation"); the Scruffs, Midtown (Northern Heights):it's Memphis, it's the '80s, and darn it, Big Star lives ("Machiavellian Eyes," "Judy [She Put the Devil in Me]"); M People, Testify (Epic):four years later, 13 new tracks including five remixes— who do they think they are, Sade? ("What a Fool Believes," "Testify"); Brad Paisley, Who Needs Pictures (Arista Nashville):there's words in that there cowboy hat ("He Didn't Have To Be," "Me Neither"); Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince, Greatest Hits (Jive):the antigangsta, as only a master of light comedy could render him ("Summertime," "Lovely Daze"); Ginuwine, 100% Ginuwine (550 Music):thump, bump, hump ("Final Warning," "No. 1 Fan"); Profilin': The Hits (Arista):beyond "It Takes Two" and "It's Like That," which nobody considering this purchase doesn't own, long on novelty (Poor Righteous Teachers, "Rock Dis Funky Joint"; N2Deep, "Back to the Hotel"); Maria Muldaur, Meet Me Where They Play the Blues (Telarc):last of the red hot mamas ("Soothe Me," "It Ain't the Meat, It's the Motion"); the Robert Cray Band, Take Your Shoes Off (Rykodisc):T-Bone Walker as Jerry Butler, only not as good ("There's Nothing Wrong," "What About Me"); M-Boogie, Laid in Full (Blackberry):here comes the West Coast underground, sunnier than the East Coast underground (Kut Master Kurt Presents Masters of Illusion Featuring Motion Man, "Magnum Be I"; Rasco Featuring Defaro & Evidence, "Major League"); L7, Live Omaha to Osaka (Man's Ruin):"It's a long way to stay where you are in rock and roll," and also, "L7 would rather be with you people here tonight in Omaha than with some of the finest people in the world" ("Shitlist," "Lorenza, Giada, Allessandra"); The Gospel According to Earthworks (Stern's/Earthworks):joy to the world music, South African style (Makholwa Vumani Isono, "Izikhova Ezimnqini"; Holy Spirits Choir, "Siyakubonga"); the Cardigans, Gran Turismo (Stockholm/Mercury):with a hit on their résumé, they're free to be the depressed Swedes they always were ("Paralyzed," "Do You Believe").

Choice Cuts:

The Go-Betweens,"Karen" (78 'til 79: The Lost Album, Jetset); Stereo Total,"Get Down Tonight" (Stereo Total, Bobsled); Kenny Cartman,"Come Sail Away" (Chef Aid: The South Park Album, American); Joey Sweeney,"My Name Is Rich" (The Book of Life Soundtrack, Echostatic).


The GrooveGrass Boyz, GrooveGrass 101(Reprise); Ice Cube, War and Peace(Priority); Pras, Ghetto Supa- star(Ruffhouse); Snakefarm, Songs From My Funeral(RCA); Vengaboys, The Party Album! (Groovilicious).


Alligator,Box 60234, Chicago IL 60660; Blackberry,c/o Nu Gruv Alliance, 430 East Grand Ave., Complex B, South San Francisco CA 94080; Lumperboy,643 Broadway, #150, Saugus MA 19106-1995; Music Club,c/o Koch, 2 Tri-Harbor Ct., Port Washington NY 11050; Northern Heights,Box 111197, Memphis TN 38111; Rawkus,676 Broadway, NYC 10012; Rykodisc,530 North 3rd St., Minneapolis MN 55401; Stern's/ Earthworks,71 Warren St., NYC 10007; Sugar Hill,Box 55300, Durham NC 27717-5300; Telarc,23307 Commerce Park Rd., Cleveland OH 44122.

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