There are plenty of good reasons to be skeptical of Dreddy Kruger Presents… Think Differently Music: Wu-Tang Meets The Indie Culture (BabyGrande) beyond its cumbersome title. There's the absence of marquee Wu-Tang names like Ghostface and Method Man, the presence of second- and third-tier Wu-Tang affiliates, and the compilation's often-tenuous connection to both its title concept and the Wu-Tang Clan. And yet the disc itself is often pretty terrific thanks to the stellar contributions of indie heavyweights like Casual, J-Live, Vast Aire, Ras Kass, and MF Doom. Main producer Bronze Nazareth engagingly resurrects the sound of vintage RZA, and a turntablist tribute to Ol' Dirty Bastard winningly mixes surprising reverence with giddy irreverence…

Big Boi Presents… Purple Ribbon Entertainment: Got Purp? Vol. II (Purple Ribbon/Virgin), the similarly solid new compilation from Big Boi's vanity label, boasts something for everyone: silky smooth soul songs about romance (for the ladies) and concrete-tough rap songs about weed, women, and aggression (for the fellas). Somewhat surprisingly, the poppier tracks outshine the grittier contributions. Scar's "What Is This?" wonderfully captures the feathery delicacy of young love with a velvet-lined guest verse from Cee-Lo, while Janelle Monae's "Lettin' Go" subversively celebrates getting canned as a thrilling form of personal liberation…

50 Cent's wooden performance in Get Rich Or Die Tryin' shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who bothered to check out the music videos on The Massacre: Special Edition (Aftermath/ Shady). For a rapper who oozes charisma on wax, he's pretty jarringly uncharismatic on the second disc, which features depressingly rote videos for every song on the album. Gratuitous nudity and terrible animation at least provide a change of pace, but seldom has the "special" designation seemed less warranted…

Advertisement

From the "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss" department comes XXL Raps: Volume 1 (Razor & Tie), a new comp from an up-and-comer that has usurped The Source's sinking ship to become rap's biggest and most important magazine. With XXL Raps, the magazine tries to horn in on some of The Source's Hip-Hop Hits series filthy lucre with 18 tracks from rap's biggest names, including six songs from the Shady/Aftermath/G-Unit camp alone (and that's not even including new recruits M.O.P.). Those looking for a portrait of today's mainstream rap could certainly do worse, but if this impersonal, mercenary comp provides an accurate reflection of XXL's mindset, then it bodes ill for hip-hop as a whole.