Rick James

Urban Rapsody

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Rick James spent most of the '90s either fighting the law or incarcerated, which naturally hurt his career. But what was more damaging to his musical reputation was the fact that he had spent the latter half of the '80s in creative limbo, producing only a handful of worthy tracks. Urban Rapsody was the 1997 comeback effort that was supposed to restore his personal and professional reputations, and to a certain extent, it does just that. The media blitz that accompanied its release did forcefully bring him back into the spotlight, and his collaborations with Snoop Doggy Dogg and Rappin' 4-Tay brought him to a younger audience, while his collaborations with Bobby Womack and Charlie Wilson retained his older following. However, Urban Rapsody doesn't really offer anything new -- it's the same collection of smooth ballads and freaky urban funk that he'd been peddling since the late '70s. The lack of variety is a bit of a disappointment, but that disappointment is tempered by the fact that much of the album is well crafted and performed, illustrating that James has not entirely lost it. While the lack of variety prevents Urban Rapsody from being a totally triumphant comeback, the cuts that do work help make the record his best album in over a decade.

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