The Velvet Underground Of Hip-Hop

If Mase is the Black Barney (his words, not mine), the Notorious B.I.G.

is

the hip-hop Sam Cooke (a sexy black idol who was also gunned down)

and

Puffy is, well, Phil Collins, then The Lox are The Velvet Underground.

On

Money, Power & Respect, The Lox -- the latest addition to the

Bad Boy family -- play the hip-hop underground ying to Puffy's

unapologetic

commercial yang.

Money, Power & Respect features Puffy's most subdued

production yet.

There are none of those weird pop music juxtapositions that appear

all over

No Way Out. Instead, on songs such as "Get This $," "The Heist

(Part

1)" and "Can't Stop, Won't Stop," Puffy attempts to throw

down beats that scream with street credibility. The most obvious

samples he

uses are Spoonie Gee's "Spoonin' Rap" and an obscure Lou Donaldson

jazz-funk instrumental from an old Blue Note label album.

And guess what? It works.

Say what you will about Puff Daddy (and believe me, I have), the guy

sure

can create the perfect production for whatever niche market he sets

his

sights on. On "Livin' the Life," Puff Daddy provides some eerie synth

blurps and minimalist beats over which Jay, Styles and Sheek ably

rap about

what it is like to be The Lox (trust me, it doesn't sound like fun).

"Get

This $" rides a '60s-jazz organ riff over a head-nodding beat and

some

random turntable scratches, and "Can't Stop, Won't Stop" is just

plain fun.

The spirit of Puff Daddy hangs over the proceedings, but it isn't all

about

him. There are a bunch of non-Puffy produced tracks -- the best of

which is

the Lil' Kim-dominated title track, with its forceful string

arrangement

and bangin' beats. As a trio of rappers The Lox work perfectly in

sync,

creating rough-n-ready "keepin' it real" rhymes, but they aren't

above

throwing in a few pop hooks to increase the catchiness quotient.

All in all, Money, Power & Respect is a perfectly enjoyable

album

for those who feel like they're too cool to be hanging out with the

three

million kids who bought No Way Out.