R&B for the Thugs, From the Ladies, With Help From the South

Nowadays, every rapper is a lover—sorry, LL!—but Mary J. Blige circa '94 aside, there's been precious little female soul for the discerning thug. Jiggaman must've whispered in Beyoncé's ear: "Soldier," a transfixing number, might do for r&b what "I'll Be There for You/You're All I Need to Get By" never did for rap: convince the other team of its merits as an entrée, not a side. DC bring ringers T.I. and Lil Wayne, Jigga groupies both, but don't need them so long as Beyoncé nails the hip swivel and eye arch that come with "I know some soldiers in here/wouldn't mind taking one for me." (Self-awareness alert: A rap-only remix is forthcoming featuring Nas, Ice Cube, Bun B, and Ray Cash.)

Tyra doesn't have the pull for platinum grills, but name-checking Lil Jon and Bonecrusher works too. The young singer's debut single—heavily enunciated, plainspoken man-demands over harmonized guitar 'n' whistle—is aimed squarely at porch-sitters. No coincidence that both songs are free of up-north provincialism (Tyra codes Southern more than the girls, who make sure to shout out "boys up top from the BK"). They're both drive-by-slow, free-of-frills odes to the trillest of the trill, for whom even leaning back is too much of a concession.

 
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