Critical thinking: musical musings

Hi Tekknology 2: The Crip (Babygrande) Hi-TekFinally, Hi-Tek takes time out of producing everyone else’s beats-no offense to G-Unit or Talib Kweli-and gives us a second taste of his own flair.The underground DJ has charged into new grounds with his sequel album: “Hi-Teknology 2: The Chip.” No wonder all of the hip-hop aristocrats accompaniedHi-Tek on this production. 15 tracks of smooth, unique beats that completely outdo the Cincinnati artist’s first album, “Hi-Teknology,” boosts Hi-Tek up on the DJ list.Talib Kweli rejoins Tek on a handful of tracks, and though it is difficult to outshine the sound the duo released on “Eternal Reflection” in 2000, Tek’s newbeats bring more variety to the table.On the single “Where It Started At,” not only Kweli steps in, but Dion, Jadakiss, and Raekwon fabricate a fierce New York anthem that ensures a hit album.And who doesn’t love a glimpse of fatherly love? The DJ’s son’s catchy riff in “Think I Got a Beat” suggests a promising futurefor Tek Junior.A few of the tracks failed to catch my ear though: “March,” with Busta Rhymes’ overpowering spittle, offers little appeal.But the album’s finale, “Music for Life,” redeems any doubts with the perfect combo of stunning samples and the familiarvoices of Nas and Common, among others.Overall, Tek’s new album is a complete inspiration for underground artists-the voluntary involvement of distinguishedMC’s reminds us that talent overrides fame.-LILY BOTTINO Born in the U.K. (Astrallwerks/Emd)Badly Drawn BoyUnlike Bruce Springsteen, Badly Drawn Boy (a.k.a. Damon Gough) was born in the U.K. And he will not let the listener forgetit.Badly Drawn Boy’s fifth release, “Born in the U.K.,” pays homage to his homeland.The album opens with “Swimming Pool,” a dialogue between Badly Drawn Boy andhimself, his pessimism versus optimism as he confesses, “I don’t think I know who I am anymore… If the world was a betterplace/Some of these bad things wouldn’t happen.” To which he replies, “There’s good things all around/You just have to looklonger and harder/To see them sometimes.”This dialogue sets the mood for the rest of the album as Badly Drawn Boy makes more personal and nostalgic connections to theU.K. in his songs. “Born in the U.K.” lacks any stand-out tracks, mostly due to Gough’s songs being too sticky with the sappiness of his lyrics: “I’ll take you where you wannago/Tell me where I wanna know/I will just go with the flow/As long as I’m there with you.” Unlike Badly Drawn Boy’s previous releases, especially “The Hour of the Bewilderbeast,” he sticks to the fundamentals and includes little room for experimentation or a direct connection with his listeners.His projection to a large audience hinders not only the experience of listening to “Born in the U.K.,” but Badly Drawn Boy’s entire attempt at a successful fifth album.For now I’ll stick to “Thunder Road” in the good old U.S.A.-MEREDITH RIVLINPress Play(Bad Boy)DiddyWhen Pharrell or Timbaland makes a beat they sell it according to how hot it is. The good ones, if not kept for the producer’s own solo projects, can sell fortens of thousands of dollars. For “Press Play,” Sean Combs’ newest release (and his first one as “Diddy”), Combs bought the best beats that moneycould buy-and he has a lot of money. By this logic the production quality of “Press Play” should be as dope as an Afghanipoppy field, and it is. But while Diddy is throwing down $50,000 a track, no one is going to pay him diddly for his lyricism.On “Press Play” Diddy’s vocal deliveries come off overrehearsed and change drastically from song to song depending onthe producer.This is particularly true of “The Future,” in which Diddy does a semi-passable imitation of Pharoah Monche (who happens tohave also written the song).Diddy’s vocal styling aside, the production on “Press Play” is downright banging. By enlisting the services of Kanye, Timbaland,The Neptunes, Just Blaze, Mario Winans, and Havoc (among others) Diddy has attempted to cater to as big an audience as possibleand imbues the album with a musical variety enriched by collaborations featuring Mary J.Blige, Nas, Cee-Lo, and Twista. Diddy has effectively used the tried and true formula of hiring a bunch of platinum-sellingsong crafters to compile a collection of the most expensive beats of the year.”Press Play” sounds like “Now That’s What I Call Music” Volume Diddy. -PUTNEY SWOPE