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*** BUSTA RHYMES, "When Disaster Strikes," Elektra

September 14, 1997|Cheo Hodari Coker

In his second album, Busta Rhymes, a boisterous whirlwind of a syntax-shredding MC, proves that he's one of the most inventive and versatile rhymers ever in hip-hop. Instead of focusing just on the themes of death, depression and mindless materialism that have stagnated rap, Rhymes brings the focus back to the days when rappers' goal was verbal jousting and brightening a party.

"Get High Tonight" ignites a party spirit that doesn't burn out. While some fans might whine at yet another hip-hop paean to marijuana, Rhymes' anthem ranks with Keith Murray's "I Get Lifted" and Cypress Hill's "Stoned Is the Way of the Walk" as one of the most infectious in the tradition. Rhymes moves engagingly from the funky "Turn It Up" to the slow-rolling "Dangerous." But the gem is "One," Rhymes' collaboration with Erykah Badu. Bolstered by an inventive sample of Stevie Wonder's "Love's in Need of Love Today," the song about black love, 5% Nation politics and family represents the perfect marriage between Rhymes' earthy hip-hop spiritualism and Badu's hip-retrograde harmonics. It's one of those rare works that has commercial smash written all over it, but displays no trace of compromise.

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

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* Excerpts from these albums and other recent releases are available on The Times' World Wide Web site. Point your browser to: http://www.latimes.com/soundclips

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