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Pop Music | Hip-Hop Report

Rappers M.O.P. Have No Problem With Rock Mix

October 08, 2000|SOREN BAKER | Soren Baker is a regular contributor to Calendar

Two of pop music's most aggressive and popular sounds, rap and rock, got even more aggressive and popular in recent years when they were combined into a hybrid by such rock-based acts as Limp Bizkit, Korn and Kid Rock.

But these rockers were beaten to the punch by M.O.P., a Brooklyn rap group that has been combining the two musical forms since its debut in 1994. M.O.P.'s 1998 releases, the EP "Handle UR Bizness" and the album "First Family 4 Life," established M.O.P. as the first rap group to enjoy respect in the hip-hop community while combining rap and rock in its music. (Run-DMC notably blended the genres on its landmark Aerosmith collaboration "Walk This Way," but the group didn't make the sound its core style.)

So where does the group stand on the current controversy over the rap-rock phenomenon, which has been criticized by some hip-hop acts for exploiting the style and selling tons of records at the expense of more talented rap artists?

M.O.P. is down with the rockers.

"I don't think the rap-rock groups are taking anything away from the music," says the group's Lil' Fame. "If anything, they're adding to it. It's not like it was back in the days when rock groups used to dis hip-hop. These cats know hip-hop. Kid Rock raps and he's like Run-DMC. I listen to it as long as it's banging."

Fame, 25, enjoys the feel of the music, even if the lyrics aren't necessarily the best.

"The stuff that we do for the streets, they do it for their people, but it's still rah-rah music," he says. "They aren't playing around. They're bringing it raw. They may not be talking about shooting people or hustling, but whatever they talk about is filled with energy, and I love music that's filled with energy."

On M.O.P.'s fourth album, "Warriorz" (due in stores Tuesday), Fame and his partner Billy Danzenie have toned down the rock elements, but there's plenty of the energy that Fame craves. As on its other recordings, M.O.P. sticks to hard-core narratives. Chock full of manic tales of survival in the ghetto, the album has the type of ferocity that demands attention.

"They speak from the streets," says M.O.P. affiliate Teflon, who has been collaborating with the group for several years. "Although you've got a lot of people that kick street lyrics, they actually kick lyrics that you can feel. They get deep and into detail."

But it's the album's smoothest song, "Everyday," that could help M.O.P. (whose name is an acronym for Mash Out Posse--mash out meaning beat up) expand its loyal but small fan base. A far more controlled song than M.O.P.'s typically raucous fare, "Everyday" features R&B group G&B Product, who appeared on Santana's "Maria Maria," and offers an appealing combination of forceful raps and soothing vocals about overcoming the obstacles of life in the ghetto.

Other selections include the horn-driven "Follow Instructions" and the hypnotic "G Building," both of which are relatively calm by M.O.P. standards but still contain the type of seething emotion the group is known for.

Like M.O.P.'s fiery words, the production on "Warriorz" stands apart from much of today's hip-hop radio fare. Handled mostly by DJ Premier and Fame, the production hits harder than Mike Tyson in his prime. According to the duo, the brutal production and M.O.P.'s hyper rapping style are simply reflections of their Brownsville neighborhood.

That's how it is on the block," Fame says. "We normally do an emotional song or two, but on this album we decided to do all rowdy songs. We didn't want to get too emotional. We wanted to take a step away from doing songs that are depressing. We didn't want any stress on this album. We just wanted understanding."

Although they have temporarily downplayed the rap-rock sound, M.O.P. remains hard-core on its new album, which is what the group says is its ultimate mission.

"We just stick to what we do and what we know," Fame says. "That's the easiest thing for us. Somebody's got to do that and I'm glad that we're the group to do it. We're the voice for the streets and we're not letting that title go anywhere."

JAY-Z COMES KNOCKING: How to build a dynasty, lesson one: When an album has run its commercial course, don't wait around--make another record and get it out there.

That seems to be the thinking of Jay-Z, whose new album, "The Dynasty: Roc La Familia 2000," will come out Oct. 31--just 10 months after the release of "Vol. 3 . . . Life and Times of S. Carter."

Although "Vol. 3" debuted at No. 1 on the sales chart and has sold more than 2.5 million copies, it wasn't packed with hit singles like his 1998 album, "Vol. 2 . . . Hard Knock Life," which sold 4.8 million copies and won a Grammy for best rap album. And Jay-Z knows that he needs a steady stream of hits in order to stay relevant in the fickle hip-hop arena.

So he's striking back quickly, employing popular producers the Neptunes, who have supplied hits for Noreaga, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Mystikal and others, to handle the music for the first single, "I Just Wanna Love You (Give It to Me)." Jay-Z also features such radio-friendly guests as Snoop Dogg and R. Kelly on the album.

Is it good strategy to release albums so close together? Jay-Z won't get much resistance at his label, Roc-A-Fella Records. He co-owns it.

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