8Ball and MJG

In Our Lifetime, Vol. 1

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Aging does not become most hip-hop artists, nor do reunions. However, there are always exceptions that prove the rule and, apparently, In Our Lifetime, Vol. 1 is one of those cases. Eightball & MJG went on hiatus in 1998, and they both released solo albums that weren't bad but weren't particularly noteworthy, either. Their reunion on In Our Lifetime, Vol. 1 is another story altogether. Working with producers Organized Noize, T-Mix, and Black, the duo has found an appealing variation on the Dirty South sound -- a smooth groove that recalls classic late-'70s/early-'80s funk, while taking chances with its drum machine rhythms and the overall sonic texture. Even the hardest-hitting cuts, "Get It Crunk" and "We Started This," have a spacy feel to their production. It all holds together, and none of the guest artists -- including Cee-Lo, Big Duke, Nina Creque, and OutKast -- detracts from Eightball & MJG, who have written some of their finest lyrics yet. The entire album is designed as an oral history of their past, and since they have a loose narrative to follow, they've wound up creating their most coherent -- and arguably best -- album yet. Very few rappers could claim to get better with age, but it seems like Eightball & MJG may be doing just that.

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