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Johnny La Rock and Mush Mouth 

Hip-Hop Needs Us (La Rock Inc. Records)

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In typical rap fashion, Johnny La Rock and Mush Mouth use the title of their debut EP, Hip-Hop Needs Us, to make a lofty claim. It may be an overstatement, but hip-hop can certainly use more of their lighthearted, quirky approach. And their raps are considerably more down to earth -- La Rock spits, "I ain't claiming to be the best/But I'm definitely not the worst."

The pair evokes an era when hip-hop dinosaurs like the Beastie Boys and Run-DMC roamed the landscape, vocal rhythms were symmetrical, and rhymes occurred only at the ends of phrases. Simple beats and synth lines sit well with the lyrical flow and offer an occasional head-turning moment, like the driving disco beat of "Morning Edition" or a sudden flip from a sparse downtempo beat into a booty-moving electro groove in "I'll Be Frank." While hip-hop might trudge forward without these fellas, it will be better with them.

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