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Savory Mix of Morality and Faith With Blues and Rap

*** EVERLAST "Eat at Whitey's" Tommy Boy

October 15, 2000|STEVE HOCHMAN

The success and acclaim surrounding Everlast's 1998 "Whitey Ford Sings the Blues" and last year's Grammy-winning teaming with Santana on "Turn Your Lights On" could have left Erik "Everlast" Schrody's head spinning. But even when shifting between various mixtures of blues-influenced styles and hard-edged rap, he seems more solidly grounded than ever on his new album (due in stores Tuesday).

Key ingredients in that foundation are his Muslim faith ("Mercy on My Soul"), a near-fatal heart attack ("I Can't Move") and a mature vision of who he is as an artist. That's not to say this is a no-fun affair. True, he concludes with a prayerful elegy in "Graves to Dig," and the album is infused with a stern sense of morality, embodied in his gruff baritone. But there's an intellectual playfulness in "Black Jesus' " twisting of cultural assumptions, and even in the life-affirming "We're All Gonna Die."

And no matter the themes, there's always a groove. The rap and rock elements are fully integrated into a distinctive hybrid, free of the gimmicks of Limp Bizkit et al. Even at its most hip-hop, with guest appearances by Kurupt and Cypress Hill's B-Real, there's a strong songwriter's sensibility underlying the rhymes. And the only time he and co-producers Dante Ross and Johnny Gamble come close to repeating a past formula is when Carlos Santana--whose Hollywood Bowl show tonight features Everlast as the opening act--shows up to color "Babylon Feeling" with his soaring guitar.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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