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Nothing great about Juvenile's new disc

Reviews: 'Juve the Great' monotonous; Memphis Bleek redeems himself with 'M.A.D.E.'
/ Source: The Associated Press

As the year of hip-hop comes to a close, we review two new rap releases -- Juvenile's "Juve the Great" and "M.A.D.E." by Memphis Bleek.

“Juve the Great,” JuvenileAfter a dispute with Cash Money Records over, well, money, Juvenile is back with the label that made him a star with hits such as “Back That A... Up.”

He’s easily the best rapper in the Cash Money crowd, but “Juve the Great” proves that his ear-catching drawl and wordplay won’t always add up to hit music.

Juvenile is only as good as the choruses that make or break his songs, and the catchy “In My Life” and “Bounce Back” are the only ones of the album’s 13 tracks worth repeat listening for any but the most dedicated New Orleans hip-hop fan.

Juve’s voice gets monotonous on other tunes, even when he’s facing up to legal woes (“It Ain’t Mines”) or sharing his life history (“Juve ‘The Great”’).

Production from Mannie Fresh and others is sufficient, but Juve needs to put more thought and effort into song-making before he can claim a truly entertaining album.-- Ryan Pearson

“M.A.D.E.”, Memphis Bleek
Once anointed heir to Jay-Z’s throne — by no less than Mr. Carter himself — Memphis Bleek has resoundingly failed to live up to expectations. Other Roc-A-Fellas such as Beanie Sigel and even Freeway have produced stronger records and albums.

Bleek redeems himself a bit with “M.A.D.E.,” his first album in three years. The title holds double meaning as a blend of Mafioso-referencing and a rather clunky acronym: Money, Attitude, Direction, Education.

What does that mean, and how does it relate to Bleek? We never really find out, but it doesn’t matter much, as Bleek supplies a solid blend of New York mainstream hip-hop and some interesting personal reflections.

Bleek isn’t afraid to surround himself with his elders; he’s content to let Sigel and Jay-Z steal the show on the top-notch, abstract “Hypnotic” and the frenetic if predictable “Murda Murda.” (Those already missing the supposedly retired Jay-Z can get their fix here — he also stars on the single “Everything’s a Go” and “1, 2 Y’All.”)

While Bleek never seems to be having much fun, “Need Me in Your Life” stands out as a guilty pleasure with Nate Dogg crooning at his faux-romantic humorous best.

Reaching inward, as all the Roc artists seem to be doing lately, Bleek produces a handful of compelling introspective verses on “Understand Me Still,” “Do It All Again” and “My Life.” All would be great songs were it not for their bland, often annoying R&B hooks. -- Ryan Pearson