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April 11, 1993|HEIDI SIEGMUND




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Unlike the commercially successful banality of much of the "Boomerang" and "The Bodyguard" soundtracks, "CB4" doesn't contain an innocuous note.

From Chuck D.'s inflammatory opening speech--a self-proclaimed Public Enemy Service Announcement--to KRS-One's reproachful "Black Cop," "CB4" burns with tough political commentary and fat, infectious beats.

Public Enemy's "Livin' in a Zoo," with its tense bass backdrop, takes direct aim at the warning-label efforts of the Parents Music Resource Center. In "May Day on the Front Line," N.W.A.'s MC Ren raps that gangbangers are "waiting for the day they get revenge for the days of the slave ships"--a timely and ominous warning.

But it's not all serious: The second half of the album features the rap parodies that are central to the movie. "Sweat of My Balls" highlights the fictional group CB4's Spinal Tap-like rap, with the lyrics co-written by the film's star, Chris Rock. Though primarily a rap album, this collection also includes the R&B sound of Tracie Spencer's "It's Alright" and Blackstreet's "Baby Be Mine." But it's the hard-edged rap numbers that linger.

New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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