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These Bones Are Connected by Bitter Raps

*** L-BURNA (A.K.A. LAYZIE BONE), "Thug by Nature," Ruthless/Epic

*** BIZZY BONE, "The Gift," AMC American Music

March 18, 2001|SOREN BAKER

Each of the four members of Cleveland's Bone Thugs-N-Harmony--one of hip-hop's most important groups--displays a distinct rapping style and focuses on a particular nuance of the core subject matter. With his debut album (due in stores Tuesday), Layzie Bone remains consistent with the contributions he made to Bone's albums, homing in on the many enemies he'd like to dispose of.

Over the course of the 19 songs, he also injects bits of commentary on redemption and oppression, as he flows with ease over the bouncy production. But the rapper (whose L-Burna pseudonym refers to the way he "burns" listeners with his fiery raps) traverses little new lyrical or sonic ground here, making for a strong but not spectacular outing.

While Layzie often skims the surface with his rancid raps, Bizzy Bone delves deeper on his second album (also due Tuesday). The lightning-quick rapper offers reasons for the anger and fear he expresses, a rare trait for a modern-era hip-hop artist.

But it's not a totally bitter ride. Bizzy also injects an uplifting message into much of his work, as he explores his relationship with a higher power on the R&B-flavored "Jesus" and implores listeners to acknowledge their responsibilities on the airy "Father." Bizzy's feathery voice sounds angelic at times, even though he deals with sorrow, pain and deceit.

*

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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