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Music in Brief

After getting uncharacteristically serious on Release Therapy, Ludacris returns to his ingratiatingly goofball ways on Pre-Release Therapy: The Truth Shall Set U Free (Mix Unit), a monster double-disc mix-tape featuring the charismatic rapper/actor working with heavyweight DJs Green Lantern and Michael "5000" Watts. Highlights include Ludacris spitting fire over the beat from Jay-Z's "You Don't Know," and "He Man," an infectious chest-thumping anthem built around a ridiculous, Gen-X-friendly sample of the He-Man theme song… A-

After scoring big with MF Doom and Danger Mouse's DangerDoom project last year, the basic-cable weirdoes in Adult Swim have teamed up with Stones Throw for Chrome Children (Adult Swim/Stones Throw), a compilation spotlighting the revered label's psychedelic old-new aesthetic and stellar lineup of cult iconoclasts. Oh No kicks things off with the charming autobiographical sketch "Oh Zone," the late J-Dilla teams with Madlib for the terrific "No $ No Toke," and Doom pops by to bless "Monkey Suite." Chrome Children is a nifty introduction to the house built by shape-shifting super-producer Madlib, but the Adult Swim connection is shaky, and the whole project feels strangely insubstantial, more an appetizer than a meal. A second disc features a DVD documenting a Madvillain live performance… B

After previously collaborating on several well-received tracks, Bay area fixtures Zion I and Living Legends' The Grouch go the album-length collaboration route with Heroes In The City Of Dope (OM Records). Zion I's underrated in-house producer Amp Live proves his versatility by changing styles and sounds on nearly every track without losing focus or cohesion. On the lyrical tip, Zion and Grouch provide smart, ambitious variations on such hip-hop fixtures as the touring song, the old-school throwback, and the noble ode to womanhood/apology for rap's pervasive sexism. Dope isn't at all edgy or revolutionary, but its solid grasp of hip-hop fundamentals and back-to-basics approach suggests that sometimes innovation is overrated… B+

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The pairing of super-producer Dan The Automator and an impressive roster of guest MCs (Ghostface, Lupe Fiasco, Mos Def, Rhymefest, Zion I, and many others) on the game soundtrack 2K7 (Decon) sounds promising on paper. But with the exception of the swaggering Hieroglyphics showcase "Don't Hate The Player" the songs prove forgettable, and Automator's production is depressingly stripped-down and generic. C+

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