Volume 93, Issue 83

Wednesday, March 8, 2000


Planet is exercise in comedic impotence

Madonna's Best Thing barely a consolation

Midler's latest sinks and swims

Angie Stone's debut glitters, Snoop's effort glides

Angie Stone's debut glitters, Snoop's effort glides

Angie Stone
Black Diamond

With a powerful voice combined with lyrical skill, Angie Stone has been a mainstay in the R&B genre for years.

She has collaborated with and penned tracks for the likes of Mary J. Blige, Lenny Kravitz, SWV and D'Angelo.

However, she has always abstained from taking the lion's share of the spotlight and instead, she elected to remain the unrecognized mastermind while others harvested the acclaim.

Thankfully for fans of the genre, this behaviour has changed with Stone's full-length debut, Black Diamond.

She still teams up with notable associates in the industry, such as Kravitz, D'Angelo and Ali Shaheed Muhammed (formerly of A Tribe Called Quest), but Stone's formidable presence remains front and centre, guiding the album to a state of greatness.

Industry observers liken Stone's voice to a mix between the soulful stirrings of Aretha Franklin and the vocal originality of a young Diana Ross. Although these influences can be heard in Stone, the echoings from her throat are anything but derivative.

Stone picks up where current divas such as Lauryn Hill and Mariah Carey leave off, combining artfully crafted aural backgrounds with vocals that precisely hit their desired sonic heights, without a hint of pretension. She doesn't feel the need to show off her talents, so much as utilize them to tell a musical story.

Every one of the tracks on Black Diamond intimates Stone's varied life experiences. Much like Hill's solo debut, Black Diamond is a mesmerizing collection of songs which work best when played in sequence.

The album's first single, "No More Rain (In This Cloud)," is a hypnotic epic track, with stirring hints of violin and harps punctuating a reverberating synthesizer beat.

Stone has a gift for combining old school techniques with modern methods into a fluid whole. This is particularly evident in "Life Story," a perfect example of her butter-smooth vocals, accented by a harmonious union of computer-generated beats and interspersed with timely blues guitar riffs.

Singling out particular tracks does not do the album justice, as virtually every song is a winning one.

Though it is natural to be suspicious of a talent which, for a long time, remained untapped of its full potential, it is clear Stone is a perfectly formed natural resource.

Her emergence was worth the wait.

Snoop Dogg
Snoop Dogg Presents Tha Eastsidaz

Throughout his numerous toils in East/West Coast lyrical wars and jail stints, Snoop Dogg always managed to keep a close ear to the Long Beach, California streets from whence he came.

It is to these streets he turns, scoping for talent to drop a few rhymes on Snoop Dogg Presents Tha Eastsidaz.

The album, his first on his own label, features cameos from noteworthy associates such as Dr. Dre, Nate Dogg, Warren G and Kurupt, who complement the main roles filled by local Long Beachers Tray Dee and Goldie Loc. However, the bulk of the lyrical brunt is taken on by Snoop himself.

In some ways, Snoop's constant contributions undervalue the album's intent to showcase the efforts of Dee and Goldie Loc, both of whom have a wealth of skills in their own right.

Dee has a knack for popping vicious, intimidating vocals, while Goldie Loc adds a more conversational style to the album.

Any criticisms of Eastsidaz are minimal and easily over-ridden though, as this group effort perfectly epitomizes the patented Long Beach style which Snoop and Dr. Dre first introduced to the rap community.

"Dogghouse" and "G'd Up" are tracks which lend themselves to being pumped out of a gyrating, tire-bouncing Impala, which has rolled-up windows clouded with the smoke of pungent chiba.

Other notable cuts from Eastsidaz include the enjoyably off-kilter "Got Beef," the hard-pounding "Big Bang Theory" and "Now We Lay 'Em Down," which combines Snoop's infectious flow with a George Clinton synth and bass groove.

While Eastsidaz does little to make listeners forget the East/West Coast rivalries which have ravaged rap the last few years, it does succeed in its rejuvenation of the smooth, Long Beach style.

–Luke Rundle

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Copyright The Gazette 2000