Somethin' for the People

Issues

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Somethin' for the People has functioned most successfully as a writing/production team for other artists, but in 1997 the trio finally scored a major hit of their own with "My Live Is the Shhh!" Three years later, they were back with an album that touches most of the bases in contemporary R&B/hip-hop, combining a strong melodic sense with distinctive rhythm tracks and mixing silky vocals, courtesy of band member Jeff "Fuzzy" Young, with raps performed by a series of guest stars. Lyrically, the group also pursues the usual subjects, from bedroom pleas ("Can We Make Love") to that ever-popular rap theme, "you wouldn't look at me when I wasn't rich and famous but now that I am you want me and I'm not having any" ("Now U Wanna"). The chart single "Bitch With No Man" has the same subject as the 1965 Supremes hit "Back in My Arms Again," questioning the romantic advice given to one girl by her girlfriends who are themselves unhappy in love. In this case, it's the boyfriend, not the girl herself who doubts the friendly advice, and with the increase in vulgarity over 35 years, he calls the friend not only a bitch, but also a "psycho 'ho'." It's a term the listener may recall three tracks later when Somethin' for the People turns thoughtful on "Things Must Change," a muddled social commentary that, among other things, deplores the use of the epithet "whore." As such a contradiction suggests, the trio is less than certain about its feelings. They open the song criticizing drug dealers, for example, only to apologize quickly and add, "I got friends that hustle, too." As such, the bland clichés that make up the chorus are not reassuring, though perhaps the songwriters' statement that they are trying to figure these things out should be accepted at face value. Unlike many current hip-hop albums, which change style from track to track depending on what production team is in charge, Issues has a consistent sound and approach throughout. It isn't breaking new ground, but it is a state-of-the-art example of the form.

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