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Rap and R&B

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Critical Career Crossroad

BOYZ II MEN
NATHAN MICHAEL SHAWN WANYA
For their first album in three years, the now indisputable men have decided to write and produce much of the material themselves. The result is a predictably ballad-heavy set that the group hopes will stave off the fresh-faced teen-pop competition. Nathan Morris says, ”We’ve had fans tell us, ‘We know it’s going to be tough for you guys … so we’re going to buy two copies.”’ 9/12

LL COOL J
G.O.A.T.
”You can call it a comeback,” says James Todd Smith, who admits that 1997’s Phenomenon wasn’t one of his deffer efforts. ”But this one is totally honest — a real urban rap album.” Recorded with a series of up-and-coming producers, it features ”Imagine That,” the randy first single, and ”Miss I,” a loving shout-out to those dark-skinned black women who never seem to get cast in rap videos. 9/12

Buzz Record

AMIL
ALL MONEY IS LEGAL
Most first heard this rapper’s cyborg-homegirl tones on Jay-Z’s smash ”Can I Get A … ,” but some weren’t sure how much of her they wanted to listen to. ”I’ve heard people say, ‘Oh, her voice is so annoying, I don’t want a whole album,”’ says the 25-year-old single mom. Naysayers be damned; she even sings on her debut. ”They’re gonna love it or hate it. And, personally, I don’t care.” 9/19

KANDI
HEY KANDI …
Fellas beware! This debut solo outing by the primary lyricist of ”No Scrubs” and ”Bills, Bills, Bills” promises more frank, female-centered assaults in R&B’s battle of the sexes. ”I’m talking about personal experiences,” says the former member of Xscape. ”In a relationship, I cook for my boyfriend, clean his house — all the girly stuff. But when he do me wrong, I talk about him.” 9/19

Kiddie Pop

LIL’ BOW WOW
BEWARE OF DOG
With his first single, ”Bounce With Me,” already sniffing around the pop charts, this 13-year-old Snoop protégé promises to make serious bones with his Jermaine Dupri-produced debut. How? ”It’s attitude and skills — and grades,” says Wow, whose real name is Shad Moss. ”Jermaine told me I couldn’t even be on the label if my grades wasn’t right.” 9/26

MYSTIKAL
LET’S GET READY …
With a voice that’s the aural equivalent of a blowtorch, Mystikal was always the most electrifying rapper in the No Limit stable. On his fourth album, with production by the Neptunes, OutKast, and Medicine Men, he’s graduated to Jive Records — teen pop’s ground zero. ”It’s some crazy s—,” he says. ”I’m straight urban and they’re straight pop. But, yo, if I need Backstreet or ‘N Sync or Britney, I got access to them, so it’s all gravy.” 9/26

Buzz Record

SHYNE
SHYNE
Talk about bad boys. Since this 19-year-old signed to Puffy’s label, he’s been involved in a fatal car crash and charged with attempted murder after last year’s infamous shoot-out at Club New York, which reportedly threatened the release of his debut. Says Shyne, ”I’ll talk about all the things that niggas do and why they do it.” Which should also prove handy in court. 9/26

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