"Crack a Bottle"

by Eminem ft. Dr. Dre and 50 Cent
(Shady/Aftermath)

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This is rather elegant and crisply produced, and Eminem hits the right note of not necessarily needing a comeback but not minding if he could stick around pop culture again for a while, either. He's even upgraded his shtick: Eminem might introduce himself as having "a record of 17 rapes, 400 assaults, and four murders," but really, he just wants to party. And hey, look—so do his guests. 50 Cent sings his first couple bars (so does Em, actually, and while I never need to hear either of them do it again, neither are altogether bad here), while Dre raps, "I love L.A./'Cause over and above all, it's just another day/And this one begins where the last one ends/Pick up where we left off and get smashed again." Yes, because it's 1999 and we're in a never-ending economic bubble and what's this I hear about ecstasy, the wonder drug? Oh shit, almost forgot: Those times are over. That's not the only reason this record, for all its craft, feels like too little too late, but it's a decent-sized one.

"Stoopid"

by Gucci Mane
(Big Cat)

The wizzy-wow synth curls get cuter with repeat exposure, and so does Gucci's sliding vowels on the hook. As for truth in advertising, this is the line he rhymes with "licorice," "ridiculous," and "magnificent": "I'm not very articulate."

"I Run"

by Slim Thug
(Koch)

On this track, Slim Thug does that not- actually-threatening low bellow over the hook so common in I'm-so-real warnings. He also rides a squiggly slow-mo synth beat whose primary selling point is its dim, mid-'90s shooter-game atmosphere. And just to make sure we absolutely get what a badass he is, he interpolates a fucking Flock of Seagulls.

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"Still Got It 4 Cheap"

by Clinton Sparks ft. Clipse and Pharrell
(mixtapes)

Even more than most rappers, especially good ones, you pretty much know exactly what the Clipse are going to rhyme about every time out, the same way you have a really good idea what to expect, tonally, from an Elmore Leonard crime novel. Over Sparks's spare, cavernous drum track and not much else, Pusha T and Malice still talk about the coke-dealer's life with similes like "I put something in your heart like it's Michel'le." I enjoy it a lot. But I also recall that Leonard wrote the occasional western, too. recommended

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