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BLACK SHEEP, 8WM/Novakane, Bum Rush
Black Sheep's first album in 12 years gets off to a perfect start on "U Mean I Don't." Like too many albums out there, Dres talks about all of the things he "pimps" while the group's name and the random "Caller ID" are ridiculously repeated in the background. Of course, he wakes up from a dream much like the hardcore episode that started off their classic debut, A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing. The first single and video, "Whodat?", reintroduces Dres' lyrical excellence over a jazzy horn sample. One half of the title, "Novakane," asks "How numb can we be?" while complaining about what passes for rap on the radio: "That ain't hip-hop." A listen to the other side, "8WM," makes you glad Dres didn't title this album or the track "Women with Women with Weed with Wine with Me." It's cumbersome but catchy, and the rapid-fire rhyme style is welcome. Harder tracks like "Hey," "Grew Up," with its grand finale of samples from Nas, Q-Tip and Ed O.G., and the instant classic, "B Boys Theme," featuring snippets of legends like Slick Rick and L.L. Cool J, strike a balance with the R&B stylings of "Be Careful," "Everyday," the piano-laced "Sunshine" and "Wonder." The latter's "What happened to us?" hook refers to a relationship with a female, but could just as easily be asked of Dres and Lawnge, who regrettably parted ways a second time during the recording of this album. Now a Dres solo album would be worth picking up every week, but since this is labeled as a Black Sheep album, more than a token Mr. Lawnge appearance was expected. In a year of successful comebacks by the likes of Ice Cube and Public Enemy, a true reunion was the only thing keeping this disc, or rather, this collection of downloads, from a classic rating. But after repeated listens and no temptations to eject it, the lack of Lawnge proved to not be enough to hold 8WM/Novakane back. So a $50 it is. Keep 'em coming, Dres.
Click here to find out how to buy this album.

-- Mason Storm

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