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Music in Brief 4212

You know you've made it when you're so damn big you barely have to appear on your own mix-CD. That's unfortunately the case with the super-slick disc Touch The Sky (Smashtime). It's credited to Kanye West and rising producer Clinton Sparks, but West's role is limited to a few cameos and a ringing endorsement. Otherwise, Touch The Sky is the usual mixed bag, with big names spitting beats by Sparks. The disc's finest moment comes courtesy of D-Block's "Take Everything," a track built around a chopped-up sample of the Cheers theme song, which gets transformed into a sneering street anthem. Who knew that anything identified with John Ratzenberger could sound so gangsta?… C+

The two tracks credited to The S.T.O.P. Movement on the compilation Hard Truth Soldiers (Guerrilla Funk) offer one of rap's strangest and most delightful paradoxes: ultraviolent rappers eloquently speaking out violence. Yes, it's gangsta rappers vs. the White House's O.G. on "Dear Mr. President" and "Down Wit Us," as Mobb Deep, WC, Tray Deee, Daz, and others wax piercingly sociopolitical over Fredwreck's production. Hard Truth otherwise showcases the Black Panther-informed politics and meat-and-potatoes funk production of Guerilla Funk kingpin Paris; the latter shines brightest on a stellar remix of The Coup's "Ghetto Manifesto" and MC Ren's "Still Ain't Free"… B

Georgia Ann Muldrow makes her Stones Throw debut with Worthnothings, a seven-track EP of airy, shambling jazz concoctions heavy on bohemian atmosphere and spacey grooves, but light on hooks and song structure. The ethereal chanteuse creates such a beatific, sunny-afternoon vibe that it can be easy to overlook her more warped lyrics. This is bachelor-pad cocktail music for the next apocalypse… B+

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On Dave Chappelle's Block Party (Geffen), ?uestlove and his merry band of progressive hip-hop and neo-soul all-stars transform oldies, hits, and rare joints into trippy, extended jams, often with the assistance of superstar guests. Big names from the film like Kanye West and the reunited Fugees are strangely absent, and the visceral, kinetic force of Dead Prez's album-opening "Hip Hop" eventually gives way to plenty of noodly sonic self-indulgence. Though a nifty souvenir, this is never quite the essential progressive hip-hop document it should be. B-

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