Rear End

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In a promotional interview for her debut album Rear End, Mercedes claimed that it took just two weeks to cut the record -- which is interesting, since the album was being advertised in No Limit discs well over a year before its release. That confirms the sneaking suspicion that No Limit readies its artwork before the artist even enters the studio, and gives the impression that Rear End is another piece of No Limit product, as faceless and interchangeable as the last. But even though there are sections as plodding as the average Beats By the Pound production, and familiar catch phrases scattered throughout the record, there's more sonic variety on Rear End than most No Limit albums. Beats By the Pound occasionally smooth things out, borrow slightly from Timbaland's skittering productions, or add a soulful groove. There's even an urban ballad with "Pony Ride," and a new jack slow jam with "Candlelight & Champagne." Change-ups like this are welcome, as are productions by Dez & Charles, since the album is tedious when it trots out typical No Limit clich├ęs -- namely, guest rappers, recycled hooks, skits, and endless profanity. Since Rear End clocks in at 70 minutes -- apparently, any hip-hop record less than hour long isn't perceived as a bargain -- it could have used a little trimming, and these would have been prime candidates. That is, with the notable exception of "Do You Wanna Ride." It lifts the chorus from Pebbles' "Mercedes Boy" and the verse from Vanity's "Nasty Girl," and the end result is the best shameless recycling No Limit has come up with in quite some time. Whenever a label turns out product at such a rapid rate, it is a welcome surprise whenever a record is slightly different and better than its predecessors.

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