Funky Fresh Few

Stealing

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While their American cousins rock radio-ready beats that often get them on the charts, British rap producers usually focus more on innovative tracks. And when they're able to collaborate with solid rappers, the combination is usually invigorating, evidenced by stellar LPs from DJ Vadim, DSP, New Flesh, Roots Manuva, and so forth. Like many of their fellow Brits, hip-hop trackmasters Funky Fresh Few favor the direct, aggressive sound of East Coast producers like DJ Premier and RZA. It's true they prove eager disciples, but unlike most of rap's U.K. wing, Funky Fresh Few don't add anything to the sound (and listeners hoping the group's name is a pointer to old-school rap inclinations will be disappointed). The beats are solid and the samples are pleasing on "Dimes Got" and "Live Wire," but FFF often resort to played-out ideas to get their tracks across. All this wouldn't be problematic if the rappers were able to compensate for bland tracks -- often the best production for a great rhymer is an unobtrusive one -- but guests like Dimes, Dirt Diggla, and Wig don't fill in the quality gaps. "However You Want It," the one big exception to the rule, features Juice Crew renegade Craig G mixing it up with Dirt Diggla and Jimmy Grand over a track that could've been a Marley Marl classic.

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