Breaking The Mold

The follow-up to C-Murder's 1998 solo debut, Life or Death.

Look at that rating all you want -- your eyes aren't playing tricks on

you. C-Murder's Bossaline is a three-and-a-half star

gangsta-rap affair -- a rare feat for an artist from the decidedly two-

or-possibly-(on a charitable day)-three star No Limit camp.

Though his vocals are eerily Tupac-esque, C-Murder's overall sound has

improved vastly since last year's Life or Death. We have the

free market to thank for the improvement, because while every track on

Life or Death was produced by someone from No Limit's in-house

Beats By The Pound team, the bulk of Bossalinie was produced

either by outsiders or by C-Murder himself (though Beats By The Pound

still managed to make their stamp on 10 of the 28 tracks). The remainder

of the songs on the album span rap's many subgenres, with West Coast

G-funk making appearances on "Money Talks" and "Murder And Daz," pop

R&B hooks lacing "Don't Wanna Be Alone," "I Remember" and "Lord Help Us,"

and the traditional, bouncy No Limit sound making appearances on

"Ghetto Boy," "Livin' Legend," and "Lil Nigga."

No Limit albums -- be they from stars like Master P and Snoop Dogg or

from virtual nobodies like Big Ed and Prime Suspects -- generally

contain a few good originals, an interesting cover song and 10 tracks

of sound-alike filler. With Bossalinie, however, we have an

actual album -- a sonic document that is a pleasure from start to finish.

Rather than one or two standout songs, there are a handful here: the

humorous, self-deprecating dozens on "Ghetto Boy" ("I'm ghetto like

putting the motherf---ing phone bill in your baby's name ... I'm ghetto

like using water in your cereal instead of milk); the psychedelic funk

of "Money Talks"; the soulful R&B of "Street Keep Callin'"; a genuine

G-funk song (Nate Dogg appearance and all) on "Ghetto Millionaire"; a

spunky, anti-slavery gospel song in "Freedom"; and an excellent Dirty

South collaboration with the Goodie Mob on "Where We Wanna."

As for cover songs, C-Murder goes one for two on Bossalinie.

"Like A Jungle" takes the anger and electro-funk of Grandmaster Flash

and the Furious Five's "The Message" and turns it into a sorrowful

lament backed by a modern-sounding R&B track. And then he stumbles.

"On My Enemies," a song dedicated to late gangsta-rapper Tupac Shakur,

only cements the impression that C-Murder is cashing in on the artist's

death because he sounds just like the slain gangsta rapper. "On My

Enemies" finds the rapper going out of his way to copy Tupac's

vocalization (especially on the word "enemies") without getting anywhere

near as deep as Shakur was able to on even his most by-the-numbers songs.

Master P and crew have built a multimillion-dollar empire on the fact

that a minimum of 500,000 people will buy all-but-interchangeable albums

at least once a month, if not more often. A cynic might say that the

expansion of sound on Bossalinie is just No Limit's effort to

strengthen their market share by evolving with the marketplace. Well,

I'm not a market analyst, I'm a rock journalist, and I've got to say

that Bossalinie cooks in all the right places.