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CD REVIEW

Ric-A-Che: Lack of Communication

Top-notch production has long since surpassed lyrical skills or singing ability as the biggest key to success in contemporary hip-hop and R&B. Ric-A-Che, a raspy-voiced rapper from just outside Detroit - who like a number of Midwestern MCs sounds as though he's from the South - seems to have recognized that a catchy beat was more likely to get him a record deal than his distinctive voice or elementary lyrics. Che says rapping became his favorite pastime by age 11, and it often sounds as if that's also when his lyrical skills ceased to develop. Songs such as his first single, "Coo Coo Chee,'' or "Gettin' Ugly,'' sound like sleekly produced rap versions of hard-nosed nursery rhymes. In other words, like so much mainstream hip-hop, these songs are entertaining without being lyrically interesting or conceptually groundbreaking. Che's compulsory braggadocio tune, "Thang Thangs,'' as well as his goofy attempt at a second club tune beyond "Coo'' (called "Who Wanna Do Something''), are at times unintentionally hilarious. But more important, they are fun listening. You can imagine yourself at a club bouncing to these and a number of other songs on Che's debut, even if a closer listen leaves you wondering how many battles Che won while plying his trade at the same venues in the Motor City at which Eminem and his protege Royce Da 5'9'' made names for themselves.

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