Teena Marie

La Doña

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A decade after resorting to starting her own label to release her work, Teena Marie discovered newfound -- or, more likely, regenerated -- respect for her legacy and wound up with a deal on Southern rap label Cash Money (distributed by Universal). Most of La Doña was in the can before the label snapped her up, but not before Cash Money's own Mannie Fresh could contribute some co-production work. Even so, this is a Teena Marie record in every respect, with none of her personality compromised. The average artist who reappears long after his or her most-popular years tends to fail miserably at staying current -- hell, rewind 14 years to the stunted hip-hop elements of Marie's own Ivory -- but she skillfully avoids that trap here. She's in excellent voice, as confident as ever, and most of the material she's working with stands proudly next to her best work. One trap Marie couldn't help but fall down, however, is the curse of the seemingly bottomless album. Equal to the length of two of her '80s albums, it undeniably falls prey to the CD-age trend of cramming as much as possible onto a disc. And La Doña would most definitely have a greater impact if it were knocked down to 40 minutes or so. This issue excepted, Marie's return is nothing short of welcomed. Gerald LeVert, MC Lyte, Common, Baby, and -- of course -- Rick James stop by for support, but none of them are truly needed.

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