Family Jewels, Vol. 1

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Los Angeles' rap scene has come a long way since the early to mid-'80s. Back then, L.A. rappers felt marginalized, and most of hip-hop's million-selling MCs lived in or around New York -- in those days, many hip-hop heads wondered if an L.A.-based rapper could ever sell as many records as Run-D.M.C., the Fat Boys, LL Cool J, or Whodini. But when Ice-T and N.W.A. hit big in the late '80s, L.A. rap became a huge industry -- and these days, the field is incredibly crowded. Pazdat's Family Jewels, Vol. 1 was among the countless gangsta rap releases that came from Los Angeles County in 2002, and the all-male group was up against an insanely long list of competitors -- in 2002, countless gangsta rap releases from L.A. were coming out every week. So how does Pazdat compare to the competition? Overall, Family Jewels, Vol. 1 is above average. The group's lyrics aren't revolutionary by early-2000s standards; their thugged-out gangsta rhymes employ the usual playa/baller/hustler imagery that numerous other West Coast rappers have employed over the years. But while Pazdat's lyrics are far from groundbreaking, their beats, grooves, and hooks do make for enjoyably funky listening. Pazdat has a way with a hook, and Big Shade Dawg's funk-loving production quickly grabs a listener's attention. Dawg doesn't have as elaborate a production style as the influential Dr. Dre; his tracks tend to be more spare. But like Dre, he loves '70s funk and shows his appreciation of classic funksters like Parliament/Funkadelic and Rick James. Family Jewels, Vol. 1 isn't innovative or groundbreaking, but all things considered, this CD is among the more noteworthy and likable gangsta rap releases that came out of L.A. in 2002.

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