Jay Kool 

"Anything I Wanna Say" (Nina Raw Records)

In the early '90s, while fronting his speed-metal side project Body Count, Ice-T explained that he could relate to death metal because it was mostly white boys talkin' shit -- and that gangsta rap was young black men doing much the same. Thus, if a band like Cannibal Corpse is the musical equivalent of Evil Dead, then MCs like Jay-Z are the aural approximation of the similarly bloody Goodfellas. They all revel in exaggerated violence for the sake of escapist entertainment.

Put in the proper context, then, roughneck rhymer Jay Kool's lyrics might not necessarily be offensive or redundant, as critics have often contended, but simply inherent in hardcore rap. With all this in mind, it's much easier to take Kool's barrel-chested flow at face value and appreciate his ribaldry and resonance, even if the actual subject matter has become somewhat routine. From the potential hit "6 Niggaz 5 Bluntz," a raw, sensimilla-scented slow jam, to the impossibly gruff title track and the equally svelte and severe "Street Slick," this is superb street rap that's not meant to break the mold, but your neck.

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