Squirreling Away The Hits

The buzz and hype surrounding the "Nutty Professor II" soundtrack would make even a cynic sit up and pay attention.

According to published reports in R&B mags, the search for suitable songs and artists for this collection was both top secret and fiercely competitive — the implication being that getting a song placed on this particular soundtrack was like scoring a first-class ticket to the top of the charts. After all, the soundtrack for the first "Nutty Professor" made stars out of Foxy Brown and Case, and the folks at Def Jam have not become behemoths in the music game by making stupid moves. They've proven quite adept, in fact, at figuring clever (and carefully plotted) ways of bringing together beloved standby acts with new kids about to blow up large.

And now that it's here? Well, as advertised, this collection is a suitably slamming assortment of big-name superstars and a nice peek at some newcomers who one can assume soon will be stars, too. Into that latter category falls Shorty 101 with the song "Get With Me" (RealAudio excerpt). Produced by hitmaker Rodney Jerkins, Shorty (who, lacking any biographical info, one assumes is one person and a woman at that) has a clear pleading tone — a tone backed by an infectious, insistent groove that layers hook upon hook and hip-shaking beat upon hip-shaking beat. In short (pardon the pun), Shorty 101's "Get With Me" is the best thing Jerkins, who can often lapse into formula, has done since "The Boy Is Mine."

Of course, soundtracks are meant to showcase stars, and this one certainly has its share of them. The always pleasing Janet (Miss Jackson if you're ... oh, never mind) is here with "Doesn't Really Matter" (RealAudio excerpt), a breezy bit of girly pop/R&B trifle which, while not a really great track, is one of those songs that does grow on you. There's Jay-Z going through the motions — albeit with his typically dispassionate style — on the Latin-tinged "Hey Papi." Montell Jordan reaches deep into his loveman trick bag on the impassioned "Do You Remember." Redman and Eminem (genius pairing) team up for "Off the Wall," (RealAudio excerpt) a controversial (as in Eminem once again railing at Britney Spears — OK, Marshall, we get it already) and funky ode to the nasty produced by ever-underrated Erick Sermon. And there's R. Kelly, who delivers a quiet and thoughtful gem with the aching love song "Just a Touch." In fact, only a remix of Sisqó's smash "Thong Song" constitutes filler — and hey, that's what they made CD programming buttons for in the first place, right?