By Joe Walker
Left Of Center
When it comes to making R&B music, Javier is definitely left of center. With his use of the guitar, along with dabbling in rhythms from hip-hop, blues and folk, this singer brings something fresh with every track. Three years ago he lit the genre on fire with his hit "Crazy," now he’s back with a second, and more creative album. At times Javier’s voice reminds one of Stokely (of Mint Condition), another compliment to this singer. On "Indecent Proposal" he sings of being aggressively hit-on by his girlfriend’s friend. Begging her away, the licks on the guitar, paired with the run and pause drum pattern, simulates his nervousness in the situation. "Dance With Me" mixes east coast hip-hop drums with sultry mariachi, while Javier layers vocals like New Edition in their prime. "Once We Start" takes one back to a time when groups like Guy and Today made the best and most meaningful slow jams.
My Homies Part 2
In 1998 Scarface made THE album of the streets, the ultimate soundtrack of the hood. My Homies, an epic double album filled with block on block grime, teamed Face with some of hip-hop’s elite to trash talk, walk-the-walk and salute the urban jungle. Waiting fans and critics begged Face for a sequel, getting classics The Fix and Last of A Dying Breed during the layover. Eight years later Scarface finally gives up the goods with My Homies
Part 2, a single disk of super clean dirt laid with the image of its predecessor in mind. Half of the album takes one to the streets for scary real life lessons while the other tempts ears with today’s typically told hip-hop subjects. "Street Lights," "Definition of Real" and the remake "Man Cry" are great. Part 2 is not as tight as the original, but may still be a good fit for those who waited long to put this on.
And on the seventh album Grits did not rest, they let there be more light in the form of another collection of bumping music with a message. This southern rap duo keeps doing it for their lord and savior; making their sermons speak in tongues without being preachy. The pair skillfully flip many rap styles while never losing the bounce synonymous with southern hip-hop. The funky base-guitar-driven "I Try," one of the best tracks on the album, keeps it real and cool at the same time, while speakers rattle the heavens on such tracks as "Bobbin Bouncin," "Hittin Curves" and the Big Boi-sounding "Here We Go."
One of the best reggae albums of 2005 came from a young Hasidic Jew named Matisyahu. His debut, Live At Stubbs, flamed the music world like ganja. Word of mouth brought more attention to Matisyahu, with ones feeling the munchies for a full-length studio release. On this, Matisyahu addresses such subjects as poverty ("Unique Is My Dove") and religion ("Jerusalem") hoping to heal through song. His chants are genuine, with the influences of Beanie Man, Super Cat and Bob Marley rising from his aura like bon fire smoke. "Dispatch The Troops" and "Ancient Lullaby" will get heads bopping and bodies twisting. Not as high energy as his previous effort, but a decent transition from live to studio.