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Redemption (Elektra)

There's cheeky, and then there's just don't give a damn. Boston rapper Benzino, co-owner of hip-hop magazine The Source, represents the latter. A former member of the undistinguished groups Almighty RSO and Made Men, Benzino is a hip-hop Zelig. He unabashedly, and foolishly, switches styles to suit his guests. He takes on the guise of a peace-loving Rasta man with Wyclef Jean on "Neva Shuvin": "We never shuvin' niggas/We try to hug you niggas." What is he? Ghetto Barney?

On "Gangsta's Touch," he adopts a Ja Rule growl on a duet with Ja's Murder Inc. cohorts Black Child and Cadillac Tah. He then brazenly rips off the guitar riff to P. Diddy's "I Need a Girl, Part II" on "Would You." With Fatal Hussein of the Outlawz, Tupac's former crew, on board, Benzino morphs into a gritty-voiced, weed-tokin' fatalist obsessed with his own mortality. Sound familiar?

By now you've likely read all about Benzino's beef with Eminem. Sadly, his by-the-numbers Eminem dis track, "Pull Your Skirt Up," was hardly worth the time Eminem spent responding to it on mix-tape replies. If, as he raps in his clumsy flow, Eminem is the "2003 Vanilla Ice," then Benzino must be 2003's update on the Madd Rapper, a self-important creation that sells -- and says -- nothing.

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