Various Artists

Ballers, Thugs N' Hustlas, Vol. 1

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Mr. Shadow and Seldom Seen dominate much of Ballers, Thugs N' Hustlas, either on each other's lonesome or appearing with other MCs in the East Side Records crew. Shadow's "Kalifornia" kicks off the set with a re-cut of the West Side gangsta aesthetic celebrating consumption, copulation, and the art of kicking it. Seen's "Gangsta" is more of the same, blending blatant misogyny with raunchy boasting. This goes on through material from Slush the Villain, Youngstah, and Mr. Lil One. While their beats occasionally fail them, most of the MCs here nod capably to 2Pac's legacy, while adding the angle of their own Chicano experience. Highlights include Mr. Shadow's "Rats in the Kitchen" and Lil Cuete's "I Know," where his reprehensible treatment of an illicit sexual partner is almost forgiven by his engaging, almost boyish style. Lil One, too, deserves mention for his bouncy G-funk appropriation of Prince's "When Doves Cry." Ballers, Thugs N' Hustlas won't make any friends among the sensitive. But for fans of gangsta or East Side Records, it has quite a bit to offer.

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