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*** VARIOUS ARTISTS, "Music From and Inspired by the Motion Picture 'The Players Club,' " Heavyweight/A&M

March 29, 1998|Brett Johnson

Setting the hedonistic rituals of strip clubs to music seems like a natural for '90s hip-hop and R&B. With soul music's affinity for sexual innuendo and rap's graphic tales of between-the-sheets rollicking, the two musical genres are an aural link to that popular forum of crass sexuality.

On this soundtrack to Ice Cube's directorial debut, which is set in and around one of these dens of iniquity, crudely sexual and gangsta-informed rhymes contrast with pleading vocals as playful raunchiness wonderfully commingles with searches for real love.

Though the energy of the album's final tracks pales compared to Cube's driving ode to striptease, "We Be Clubbin'," and its equally raw remix featuring the bark of Bronx lyricist DMX, a bounty of guest stars and head-nodding rhythms lift the project.

Ice Cube shares verses of lowbrow sex talk with Mr. Short Khop on "Who Are You Lovin'." Others, including Jay-Z, Kurupt and Scarface, add to the bachelor-party ambience with tales of streetwise struggles over buoyant bass lines and ominous synthesizers. The testosterone-drenched raps are balanced with spirited female rebuttals courtesy of diva groups Changing Faces and Brownstone and rapper Mia X.

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

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