Freestyle Fellowship

Temptations

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Though they've become legendary figures in the West Coast hip-hop underground through their appearances at clubs like L.A.'s renowned Good Life, Temptations is only the third album that MCs Aceyalone, Mikah Nine, Self-Jupiter, and P.E.A.C.E. (who actually sits most of this one out) have released as Freestyle Fellowship. It certainly qualifies as long-awaited -- it's Fellowship's first outing together since 1993's Inner City Griots -- and it finds the group's mic skills as hot as ever. But the uncompromising attitude spelled out in the song "No Hooks No Chorus" ends up hurting the album, as too many tracks focus almost exclusively on the lyrical end of the hip-hop equation, backing the group's rhymes with raw, repetitive grooves. It's an approach that probably works well live, but it makes seemingly endless songs like the title cut tough to fight through at home. And while it's difficult to argue with any of the group's MCs -- particularly the dexterous, fleet-tongued Aceyalone -- when they make their case on "Best Rapper in the World," it's also hard to avoid imagining how many more converts Fellowship might have attracted with just a little more imagination musically.

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