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East Coast hardcore rap artist KJ-52 assumes the role of cool ringmaster over a myriad of coconspirators as he deftly deals sleek pop hooks, funky dance beats, and sharp-witted streetwise wordplay on Collaborations. As the title implies, KJ-52 teams with various mixers, melding humor and aggression with musical and lyrical analogies that are entertaining and heartfelt. "5th Element," which details the five essential components of hip-hop from the first-person perspective of a shell-toe Adidas, a microphone, a turntable, and a spray can, is ingenious and infectious. An a cappella diatribe, "Industry" takes dead aim at the conflicts between art and commerce, pointing fingers at fellow rappers and record company executives with equal venom. "ABC's and 1, 2, 3's" evokes the amiable nature of television/film superstar Will Smith with a series tongue-in-cheek lessons in life. "Where Were You" is the pure late-'60s sound of Motown via lush harmonies, slick choruses, and serious social and interpersonal consciousness. And "Dear Slim" is a nifty "Stan"-type open letter to bad-boy brother in arms Eminem. Collaborations reaches out to a wide audience with confidence and conviction.

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