The Hip-Hop Album To Beat

With Biz Markie and Common.

In 1993, the Beatnuts summed up their philosophy of life with the chorus to

"Psycho Dwarf": "I wanna fuck, drink beer and smoke some shit." They were

the type of boys MC Lyte swooned over in "Roughneck," the ones who partied

but were always able to defend themselves, the ones who talked trash about

bitches and hos to their boys but were ready to scrap if anyone said

something nasty about their girl.

Six years and two albums later, the Beatnuts (Psycho Les and JuJu) haven't

changed much — at least if we use the lyrical content and funky,

head-ringing production of A Musical Massacre as a barometer. The

subject matter may be the same, but they've progressed a bit beyond the

chorus to "Psycho Dwarf"; backing their boasts with their most creative

rhymes yet ("I stay high like a stewardess/ fuckin' with this is ludicrous/

I just boned your bitch/ now she's making me tuna fish," from "I Love It,"

for example) while filling the album and rapping toe to toe with artists

like Biz Markie, Common, Cuban Link and dead prez. Their production is as

solid as ever, thankfully forgoing the temptation to rip off Timbaland's

electro-bump, West Coast G-funk or Puffy's pop-rap. Instead, the Beatnuts

stick to the dusty funk records they know the best, mining the crates for

samples and loops that speak to dancing feet and

bobbing heads.

While there isn't really a bad track on A Musical Massacre, there are a few that don't meet the standards set by the album's best

songs. A rowdy bunch of fighters like the Beatnuts sound a bit ridiculous

hoping for social change as they do on "Look Around," but guest rappers dead

prez sound perfectly natural rhyming about revolution over a Wu-Tang string

loop. The continual sampling of female orgasmic gasping gets tired after a

while, though it is used to good effect on criminally short funk interlude

"Who You Fuckin Wit." "Story 2000," on the other hand, is a sex story that

goes on a little too long, though it is almost worth it for the Psycho Les

lyrical nugget: "I made her cum like Niagara Falls/ bam! bam! bam!/ Lick my

Viagra balls."

The album's best tracks strike a perfect balance between inventive lyrics, a

party vibe and rowdy-bounce production. "Watch Out Now" (RealAudio excerpt), "I Love It," and

"Turn It Out" (RealAudio excerpt) each bob and weave like a prizefighter and land lyrical blows

with the force of a Tyson punch. "You're A Clown" (RealAudio exceprt) is a fun, circus

organ-fueled dis-fest and features a performance by rap court jester Biz

Markie that is humorous ("I'm one in a million just like Aaliyah/ You look

at me and say 'Mama mia!' ") and manages not to turn the entire affair into

a joke. "Slam Pit" is also a good track, but sounds a bit like it is on the

wrong album. Its raw, gritty piano loop competes with a minimalist beat as

Common, Cuban Link, Psycho Les and JuJu spit lyrics usually reserved for a

cypher circle, not an album of funk-driven hip-hop.

Stylistic departures like "Slam Pit" and "Look Around" aside, A Musical

Massacre is a solid work from two artists at the peak of their game. The

craftsmanship of their lyrics and loops has never been better, and they've

retained enough of their original sound to distinguish themselves from the

competition. If next year's hip-hop releases all cop funk grooves and unique

samples from orchestras and big bands, you'll know why.