Nice & Smooth

Blazing Hot, Vol. 4

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Rappers Nice and Smooth have made a career out of making a little go a very long way. Never the world's best rappers, the duo more than made up for what they lacked in lyrical skill with their strong ear for hooks and melodies, winning chemistry and infectious enthusiasm. But by the time the time they got around to releasing their forth album, 1997's Blazing Hot, Vol. 4, their winning formula was starting to fade. Blazing Hot at least gets off to a strong start, with the title track nicely illustrating their still-potent knack for catchy choruses, and the second track, "Boogie Down Bronx/BK Connection" engagingly matching the singsongy flows of Nice and Smooth Bee with the butter-smooth production of super-producer Easy Mo Bee. But while the marriage of R&B and hip-hop works well early on, it falters soon after, undone by wildly uneven production and forgettable rhymes. And without memorable production and ridiculously catchy choruses, the remedial lyrics of Smooth Bee and Greg Nice's are pushed to the forefront, a fatal error for a duo that's always succeeded in spite of their lyrics, not because of them. With only nine new songs, padded with two worthless intros and a listless live version of "Dwyck"-minus Gang Starr, of course, Blazing Hot is both too short and too uneven to make much of an impression, resulting in an album that's easily the lyrically-challenged duo's weakest to date.

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