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Run D.M.C. 

Crown Royal (Arista)

The formula worked wonders for Santana: Surround the creatively dead artist with people who still sell records, and let the magic happen. Surprisingly, it did. To the tune of platinum many times over, a shelf filled with Grammys, and a career revitalization. Now the label that orchestrated that comeback is at it again, this time with old-school rap pioneers Run D.M.C., which hasn't released an album in 8 years and hasn't put out a good one in 15 years. But the long-delayed Crown Royal is no Supernatural, and part of the problem has to do with that supernatural principle.

Jermaine Dupri, Nas, Mobb Deep's Prodigy, and Method Man may be suitable collaborators, and Kid Rock and Everlast can be bent and squeezed to fit the format. But Fred Durst, Third Eye Blind's Stephan Jenkins, and Sugar Ray merely prove the old adage that white guys can't rap. It's a tactless marketing move, and as further proof, Arista is releasing two initial singles from Crown Royal -- one going to the usual outlets, the other directly to modern-rock radio. Some of these alliances are as icky as they sound (Jenkins's wan "Rock Show" strains for cred), and Everlast comes off like a wheezing Fat Albert as he chimes in with a guttural "hey, hey, hey" during the chorus of "Take the Money and Run" (yes, the Steve Miller song). Run D.M.C. itself doesn't fare much better. On Crown Royal's better tracks, the group rewrites itself again and again -- only Dupri's bouncy "It's Over" updates the playbook. Mostly, though, the group just sits back and lets its guests take the mic.

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