After nearly two decades, gritty Yonkers rap trio the LOX return with their third official LP, Filthy America...It's Beautiful. While Sheek Louch, Jadakiss, and Styles P were anything but silent during the 16 years following their 2000 Ruff Ryders foray We Are the Streets -- releasing compilations and EPs and dropping in for a verse or two on tracks by other artists -- this Roc Nation debut still feels exciting, like a welcome visit from a group of friends who have been away for years. As with any reunion, there's always a risk that things might have changed for the worse. Yet -- even considering the fact that Jada and Styles opened a couple juice bars -- the LOX haven't softened. Fortunately, Filthy America hits as hard as their menacing, youthful material. The biggest surprise here is that their delivery and the production have actually benefited from the passage of time. On opener "Omen," the LOX flex their lyrical muscles atop an ominous choir chant sample, spitting bars more invigorating than those of most younger mainstream rap faces in 2016. They spend much of Filthy America reasserting their dominance and legacy, knocking teeth out on the early-aughts throwback stomper "What Else You Need to Know" and the booming "Don't You Cry." Fetty Wap pops in for some warbling on the hard and nasty "The Agreement," while Mobb Deep create a brief New York super-quintet on the unexpectedly danceable "Hard Life." Additional standouts come courtesy of other high-profile guests. DJ Premier gifts listeners with the most nostalgic-sounding track on the album, the joyful "Move Forward," while Pete Rock smooths everything out on the glittering title track. The hypnotic closer, "Secure the Bag," is the most obvious outlier on Filthy America, carrying the LOX into 2016 with trap icon Gucci Mane and InfaRed. It's a contemporary update to their sound that might turn off old-school fans, but it effectively intimidates nonetheless. Even though the LOX acknowledge that they are "old heads" and their business strategies have changed ("Now I sell juice, but I used to sell blow!" raps Styles), they can still dominate with sheer force and ability. Filthy America...It's Beautiful is a welcome return from the New York favorites.
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AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung