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Rap Album

February 11, 2007|Ann Powers

Lupe Fiasco, "Lupe Fiasco's Food and Liquor"

Ludacris, "Release Therapy"

Pharrell, "In My Mind"

The Roots, "Game Theory"

T.I., "King"

2006 was an annus horribilis for rap, with junk in the trunk (such as pop-group contender "My Humps") dominating artistically and sales dropping even for superstars. The choices here cultivate hope by casting a wide net. The late-career comeback from alt-rap mainstays the Roots could win on the Scorsese principle, and skater Lupe Fiasco's loosey-goosey debut has hipster cred. Ludacris equals John Mayer -- his Hollywood ties and streetwise sincerity make for a safe bet. Popular producer Pharrell's awful solo venture is the non-rap listener's choice. The real champion is Atlanta hard-body T.I., whose authoritative flow and cold, imaginative eye qualify him as a genuine titan-in-the-making.

*

-- A.P.

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