Ozomatli's tunes used to be the paradigm of multicultural musical fusions, joyous and irreverent reflections of the schizophrenic Los Angeles that gave birth to the band. But styles are neatly separated in Ozomatli's long-awaited second album (due Tuesday), most of which is divided into tracks that fall clearly into either hip-hop or Latin territory.
And even though Ozomatli is closely associated with the Latin world, it is the hip-hop material that steals the show. MC Kanetic Source does a fine job of replacing Chali 2na, the band's original rapper, and guest appearances by members of De La Soul and the Black Eyed Peas add verve to overwhelmingly funky jams such as "1234" and "Vocal Artillery." The latter's ominous piano line and massive beat are particularly effective.
Most of the Latin stuff sounds pretty unconvincing. The solid musicianship is there, as well as the clever unification of samba and salsa, cumbia and ranchera . But Ozo's stab at traditional Cuban son ("Timido") and Fabulosos Cadillacs-style rock en espanol ("Suenos En Realidad") fail to capture the soulfulness of the sources of inspiration. "I am a guerrilla fighter," the group sings gleefully on the infectious "Soy Guerrillero." Ozomatli might be a superb party band, but at this point in the game it is not exactly revolutionary.