Evan Serpick
November 01, 2002 AT 05:00 AM EST

— MEN OF STEAL After a year of hyping their CD Toxicity and a summer with Ozzfest, you’d think System of a Down would be ready for some, uh, down time. But all systems are go as the band scrambles to finish a new album by year’s end, while frontman Serj Tankian completes Serart, a collaboration with Armenian multi-instrumentalist Arto Tuncboyaciyan, and prepares to launch his label, Serjical Strike. System have been mixing Steal This Album, which includes songs from the Toxicity sessions that had been leaked on the Web. ”The Internet mixes were awful. People were missing out,” says guitarist Daron Malakian. Meanwhile, Tankian has signed three bands to Serjical Strike and hopes to release four discs, including Serart, by the end of 2003. ”None of them sound like anything out there,” Tankian says of the bands. The System singer will produce the debut for Britpop start-ups Slow Motion Reign and supply guest vocals for Goth rockers Kittens for Christian, while Malakian will produce the debut from hard rockers Bad Acid Trip, which will feature a remix by Tankian. ”You could call it artsy thrash,” says Malakian of Bad Acid Trip’s music. ”It’s not like I’m waiting for a radio single. But you never know. They played us.”

— BEEF, WELL DONE A new CD featuring Eminem, Jay-Z, and Nelly is selling so fast that vendors in New York are having trouble keeping it in stock. But you won’t find it on the Billboard charts or in Tower Records. It’s illegal. The two-disc bootleg P-Cutta Presents Street Wars collects rap disses from official records, radio stations, and artist-leaked tracks to form a guide to the labyrinthine world of rap feuds. Big battles, like Jay-Z vs. Nas and Nelly vs. KRS-One, are here, as are emerging clashes like DMX vs. Ja Rule and new spins on old news, such as Snoop Dogg vs. Suge Knight. ”It’s our hottest seller,” said one Brooklyn entrepreneur, who sold out his sizable stock of the $5 sets on each of the first three days he offered it. For all the tension, there are moments of humor, as when Cam’ron slams Nas for wearing jewelry that doesn’t match and later finds common ground, noting they have the same accountant.

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