By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Who doesn't feel sorry for the artists formerly known as Mobb Deep? After years of blithely carrying the torch for Queensbridge murda muzik, they wind up on G-Unit as puppets of the Fifty empirate. Gone are the starkly, relentlessly menacing beats, rhymes, and rants in praise of revenge, drug money, and misogyny that made The Infamous, Hell on Earth, and that furthermucking masterpiece Murda Muzik such mesmerizing guilty pleasures. It takes nearly 13 cuts in on the new, G-approved Blood Money before you hear anything that sounds like a real Mobb Deep record. The beats, even those by Havoc, uniformly sound like they came from Kmart with a little parking-lot grocery-bag-carrying assistance from Garage Band. The best is last, but not even one of Havoc's: the Dre/Mike Elizondo/Mark Batsonproduced "Outta Control" remix.
But should anyone be surprised that two Blood tracks reprise in-da-club antics for Fifty's self-aggrandizement? Hell no. All part and parcel of the bitchification of a band. Of course maybe we've got this flippedperhaps Havoc and Prodigy are exploiters too, turning in mediocrity, taking Fifty's moula, and running down to the vaults for a green-cheddar orgy as so lavishly depicted in the album art. Perhaps this explains Prodigy's near-disappearance-when-not-phoned-in pro forma presence on the lyrical, vocal, and production fronts. Could be that's just his depression talking too: the blues that inevitably and immediately follow when you chuck your evil-genius creative muses to the curb in pursuit of big posse boy-love and even filthier corporate lucre.
Then again, maybe Fifty's poppy influence has a positive side, as the best cuts on this record are actually about women they love, and not the ones they merely date out of lust and hate. Mary J. Bligealways a civilizing influence in these hard-rock-gone-mush affairsmelodiously raises the musical bar on the gangsta-boo romancing "It's Alright." (Some of the better harmony singing we've heard her do, in fact.) Unfortunately, the other song of feminine rapture here, "In Love With the Moula," might be all too literal.