The Greatest Story Ever Told (SRC/ Universal Motown)
ESSENTIAL "So Long"
Will the real David Banner please stand up? Like his comic book namesake, the cerebral Banner can be wildly schizophrenic as he is again on his fourth album. A third of this very long set is often trenchant, highly charged critiques of our skewed values. He rails against generational apathy, self-destructive tendencies of the African-American community, and government abuse, among other things. It's angry and compelling, but it's also offset by his indulgence in the worst hip-hop clichés and the stereotypes he often derides. It makes this frustrating because when the Mississippi MC delivers, songs like "So Long" and "Hold On" are vivid laments. But he can also show a Hulk-like ugly side with raging misogyny and cartoonish sexual swagger on "A Girl." Banner may not be the fleetest MC, but he just needs to stop pandering and trust his best instincts. [Ken Capobianco]