With the possible exception of P. Diddy, no act personifies rap music's obsession with money—and the power and respect it brings—quite like Cash Money supergroup Big Tymers. A luxury-goods dealer's best friend, the duo of Baby and Mannie Fresh has emerged as one of its label's signature acts, despite a notable dearth of charisma and lyrical skill. (It doesn't hurt that Fresh at one point produced every track on every Cash Money release, or that Baby is one of the label's founders and chief executives.) Big Tymers has always promised escapism on a massive scale, but its last album, I Got That Work, was as much fun as listening to a boorish blowhard describe all the great parties he's been to. Fortunately, Hood Rich marks a major departure. Fresh passes production duties on several tracks to red-hot producer/singer Jazze Pha, whose distinctive croon can also be heard on two songs, most notably "Get High," where his gravelly baritone is a dead ringer for Cee-Lo's. Hot Boys Li'l Wayne, Turk, Juvenile, and B.G. are notably absent, replaced by Cash Money signee T.Q. and a smattering of newcomers. More importantly, Baby and Mannie Fresh have learned to make their shortcomings work for them, resulting in an album miles ahead of its predecessor. The two remain little more than enthusiastic amateurs when it comes to rhyming, but here they make their talent go a long way. The duo's most eclectic, consistent work to date, Hood Rich has already scored a massive summer single in "Still Fly," an irresistible bit of ghetto social satire. "Gimme Some," meanwhile, recalls the breezy roller-boogie of De La Soul's "A Roller Skating Jam Named 'Saturdays,'" while "Get High," "Sunny Day," and "Hello" find Fresh and Baby singing, laughing, and goofing their way through laid-back soul that couldn't be further from the frenetic electro-funk that characterized early Cash Money releases. If Juvenile's dispirited Project English marked the end of an era for Cash Money, the lively Hood Rich marks a brash new beginning.

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