AZ

Legendary

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    5
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AllMusic Review by

Since appearing on Nas' monumental 1994 debut Illmatic, AZ has managed to maintain the same charismatic rhyme style which first garnered the East New York native accolades. His slick delivery, suave voice, and seemingly off-handed multi-syllabic lines married with R&B- and soul-flavored production has been a winning formula for a smoother form of New York street-hop for a decade-and-a-half. On Legendary, Anthony Cruz continues to follow that formula, pairing his tight-knit flows with plenty of chipmunk soul. The main drawback here is that, throughout 14 tracks, AZ and his supporting cast fail to offer anything new. West Coast beatmaker Cozmo handles most of the production and doesn't come up with many standouts. It's not that he's a bad producer, it's that his beats tend to follow patterns that other producers have executed to better results. For instance, the sinister mandolin samples creeping behind "What Up" sound like a generic Dr. Dre concoction, the gospel organ arrangements on album-closer "Get Money" recall a few Large Professor efforts, and the crisp piano loop of "Money Makes the World Go Round" is reminiscent of Ski's work on Jay-Z's Reasonable Doubt. While on the mike, AZ refuses to venture outside his comfort zone. Track three is entitled "Livin' the Life," but about two-thirds of the track list could just as well carry the same name as the Brooklyn veteran lyricist relishes in lavish-life boasting, hustler-turned-playboy vignettes, and little else. The finely crafted tales of bitterness, betrayal, and jealousy on "Good for Nothin'" represent his biggest lyrical departure and also make for the record's hottest cut. Ultimately, Legendary finds AZ spinning his wheels and, while it does contain a couple of strong tracks, it doesn't stand up to his best work.

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