Various Artists

Christmas on Death Row

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In theory, a holiday album by the most vulgar and violent rap label should be a wonderfully tasteless guilty pleasure, but Christmas on Death Row doesn't quite meet expectations. Part of the problem is that only a handful of cuts on the album are gangsta rap -- the majority of the album is dedicated to fairly ordinary post-new jack urban soul. Of course, the reason why G-funk is in such short demand on the album is the fact that producer Dr. Dre left the label several months before the album was recorded. Since he was the primary creative force on the label, particularly in terms of hardcore rap, the quality of their work isn't as strong as it was while he was with Death Row, which is painfully obvious on the cookie-cutter approach of most of the rap cuts. The urban tracks sound half-hearted as well, as if they are an attempt to keep pace with the ventures into soul that Dre was working on with his The Aftermath project. And that lack of vision means that Christmas on Death Row, which should have been crude and infectious, is merely plodding and predictable. A few tracks, such as Michel'le's "Silver Bells" and Snoop Doggy Dogg's "Santa Claus Goes to the Ghetto" are strong, but the entire project feels unnecessarily belabored.

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