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Soundbombing 3 (Rawkus)

Once a hotbed of quality underground hip-hop, N.Y.C.'s Rawkus Records has fallen on hard times, dogged by distribution problems, chronically delayed albums, and disgruntled artists. With the chips stacked against it, the once-mighty team hopes to salvage its rep with the third edition in its critically acclaimed Soundbombing series.

Per usual, collaborations are the name of the game here, with standouts like Talib Kweli and DJ Quik's ultra-funky "Put It in the Air," the Cocoa Brovaz with Dawn Penn's ragafied "Spit Again," and "My Life" from Queens thugs Kool G Rap and Capone-N-Noreaga. Unfortunately, most of the album suffers from questionable beats and misguided attempts at rowdy club-bangers. Mos Def sounds out of place on the hyperactive "Freak Daddy," the usually reliable Beatnuts fall short on "The Trouble Is . . .," and "Crew Deep," with Missy Elliott, Skillz, and Kandi, shamelessly jacks the beat from Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight."

Whether Rawkus can rebound from its recent difficulties remains to be seen, but this record is of little help. Soundbombing 3 isn't a total dud, but it's certainly the worst of the trilogy. Hopefully Rawkus will get its act together soon and release some good LPs, before it's too late.

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