Various Artists

Sign of Things to Come: Steve's Picks of the Year

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When it comes to expressing his views on the state of contemporary African-American music, Steve Harvey hasn't been the least bit shy. The comedian/DJ has made it clear that he prefers the classic soul of the '60s and '70s, and he has been vehemently critical of the more violent and sexually explicit lyrics in hardcore rap. So when Harvey assembles an R&B/rap compilation, he inevitably brings certain biases to the table. Sign of Things to Come is not a comedy album; it is a compilation that emphasizes urban contemporary but also contains some rap selections here and there. Not surprisingly, Harvey's urban contemporary picks tend to have a neo-soul outlook -- tracks like Joe's "Lovers Prayer," Mary J. Blige's "No More Drama," and Yolanda Adams' "A Song of Faith" favor a hip-hop production style, but the vocals underscore Harvey's soul bias. Harvey was no doubt swayed by the strong Stevie Wonder influence that Rahsaan Patterson brings to "The One for Me" and the bluesiness that Angie Stone exhibits on "The Messenger." Although R&B dominates the CD, Sign of Things to Come makes some likable detours into rap with tunes that include Mr. Cheeks' "Let's Get Wild" and the B.L.A.C.K. Experience's "As Is" (which has a jazzy alterna-rap appeal along the lines of De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest). And Harvey, true to form, doesn't go with any violent or sexually explicit lyrics. The worst thing you will hear on this compilation is the occasional reference to shakin' your booty -- in other words, lyrics that are no worse than anything KC & the Sunshine Band or the Bar-Kays came out with in the '70s. Generally decent and occasionally excellent, Sign of Things to Come is among the more noteworthy urban/rap compilations of 2002.

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