December 20, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

Ashanti, the princess of radio-rap hooks, shreds any hope of artistic growth on Concrete Rose the moment she demystifies her CD’s title on the simpleminded ”Concrete Rose Intro”: Hip-hop is gritty, kinda like concrete, she explains, while R&B is sensual — you know, like a rose. The thin-voiced vixen’s third disc bruises both genres with a slew of mostly midtempo clunkers built with her weapons of choice: faux grit and forced sensuality. Ah, but she’ll always have poetry.

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