Treading Water In The Space Age

Dirty South rap duo's fifth album is more of the same with fewer highlights.

Since their 1991 debut, Dirty South rappers Eightball & MJG have been

proclaiming their bouncy, thick, funk sound as "space age" — with

synths often programmed to sound retro-futuristic and beats that Master

P and his minions used to full effect a few years later.

It is interesting, then, that as we approach the millennium —

what we used to consider the "space age" until we collectively

realized Y2K would be better known for computer crashes than

hovercrafts — Eightball & MJG would release In Our Lifetime

Vol. 1, an album that dittos the duo's previous accomplishments

laying loops inspired by '70s funky soul and sci-fi soundtracks over

buoyant, electrified Dirty South beats.

In Our Lifetime Vol. 1 isn't as envelope pushing as some of

their previous releases, especially Eightball's 1998 solo project,

Lost, but it is chock full o' songs that are likely to be eaten

up by their solid fanbase and those currently engrossing themselves

in all hip-hop bubbling up from the South.

A soulful intro track sets the album's tone by telling the listener to

enjoy "the stickiest of the greenest" and a cognac while listening,

but the sound then shifts to the electrified drum machine bounce of

"We Started This Shit" and the music doesn't let up until "Speed"

wraps up 14 tracks and 61 minutes later.

For those who like their hip-hop rowdy, with a Dirty South flavor,

"We Started This," (RealAudio excerpt)

"Get It Crunk" and "Throw Your Hands Up" (RealAudio excerpt)

(which features a nice turn by Outkast) will get your club-hopping

booty shakin', even if the choruses are a bit by-the-numbers.

Slow, smokin' grooves, however, dominate the album. "Paid Dues" (RealAudio excerpt)

incorporates reggae dub effects, "Don't Flex" uses seductive rhythms

to accent sexist girl-watching lyrics and "Love Hurts" (thankfully)

doesn't sample the Nazareth classic but still gets the point across

with a groove that sounds like a lost Marvin Gaye lover's lament.

The production work of Suave House's T-Mix and Organized Noise's Mr.

DJ is tight throughout, continuing the recent trend of hip-hop that

works both as a dance work-out and as ear candy for those who want

good headphone music.

The LP is alternately insightful and tired — lyrically, the group

seems in a rut, letting slip a few too many rhymes that rely on the

played-out words "bitch," "nigga" and "motherfucker." There's little

on In Our Lifetime Vol. 1 that approaches the lyrical

profundity and fine storytelling found on Eightball's "My Homeboy's

Girlfriend," "The Artist Pays the Price," "Backyard Mississippi" or

"My First Love." Lost was a poetic breakthrough when it came to

Southern rap; it's a shame the trend couldn't continue here.

If indeed Eightball & MJG are operating in the space age —

Eightball alluded to the year 3000 on Lost — it seems

that the best of today's Southern rap will be the dominant sound when

our offspring's grandchildren's children are cruisin' the strip on

Mars and clubbing on the Moon. If George Clinton was right about his

whacked-out sci-fi funk coming from the future, there's no reason to

believe that Eightball & MJG aren't looking at the same crystal ball.