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R.I.A. 

Battleground (www.myspace.com/luniceria)

You'd think a group called Real Industry Assassins would take an approach counter to the chart-topping rap acts of the last decade. But the all-white Cleveland posse's debut takes the adage "If you can't beat em', join em'" for another 12 spins. Battleground features abundant braggadocio, misogyny, marijuana joints, and fixations on violence. But R.I.A.'s blood thirst, like its entire approach, is cartoonish, closer to Insane Clown Posse than Compton. Ringside bells, military chants, and other over-the-top thematic noises accentuate the playground threats.

Battleground's string-laden backing music has the energy of an action-movie score, which makes the decision to put it in the foreground of the mix a wise one. Though the four MCs boast distinctive voices and attempt some innovative flows, they often get tripped up over weak rhymes, predictable five seconds in advance. Their ICP stabs at humor just aren't funny and ultimately hinder the album. R.I.A. may enthrall the Faygo-chugging demographic, but it leaves most with a bad taste in their mouths.

More by Matt Gorey

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