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Album Review

Mike Jones, 'The Voice'

May 11, 2009
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Hip-Hop
Mike Jones The Voice
Ice Age/Swishahouse/Asylum
ESSENTIAL "I Got It"

Three years ago, Mike Jones went double platinum with "Who Is Mike Jones?" But after a period of silence, hip-hop fans might be wondering, "Who was Mike Jones?" "The Voice" is meant to be a corrective, laden with hook-filled songs that should keep the Houston MC highly visible throughout the summer. While there is certainly a swagger and more than enough derigueur hip-hop misogyny ("Give Me a Call"), this is mostly a genial pop-oriented set. It's in keeping with the trend in hip-hop that emphasizes the smooth over the hard. Even the angry "Hate on Me" sounds like a slice of fluff. Jones's tribute to his recently deceased grandmother, "Grandma II," is obviously heartfelt and strikes a chord. Some of the chart-friendly tracks, like "Cuddy Buddy," are too-obvious sops for commercial success, but "Next to You," produced by J.R. Rotem, is undeniably irresistible. Jones has modified his elongated flow, though he doesn't show much growth as an MC. Still, compared to the obsessive self-promotion of his debut, the restraint here makes it infinitely more listenable. The album provides a real sense of who Mike Jones is now. (Out now)

KEN CAPOBIANCO