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December 20, 2014

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Beats, rhymes & life

Damon Hodge on the latest in local hip-hop

Criminal Trigga B, XXXplicit, **

This disc is pimpish from start to finish, with many of the songs chronicling Trigga B's affinity for women—"Knocka Bitch," "The Game," "Fall Thru" and "1 Mo Bitch," a valiant but ultimately trite remake of NWA's "One Less Bitch." The album's other prevailing themes deal with making mounds of money, shaking suckers, blasting on fools and forever keeping it real. In other words, originality isn't Trigga's calling card.

Not that he doesn't come off as believable; he does, refreshingly so. But his stories lack the edgy angst that transforms rappers into urban correspondents—they tell rather than show. The major exceptions are the drug-influenced "28 Grams" and "Day One," a resumé-building number that introduces Trigga's full personality: North Las Vegas Blood, ex-felon, pimp on the grind who embraces his hard-knock life. If only there were more of this.

Tone tha Bishop, Church Service, **1/2

Were this, say, the mid-1990s, Tone tha Bishop's hip-hop ecumenical might have put him at or near the top of the local rap pile. Now, most of his songs feel like throwbacks to a bygone era of West Coast rap.

That's not to say the music isn't good. It's just that Tone, whose voice is equal parts Jayo Felony, E-40 and Crooked I, only delivers the ruckus in spurts. The chorus on the slow-grooving "Grindin" is infectious, "SCI:FI The Faction" effectively marries a minimalist beat with Tone's basic-but-effective on-beat rhyming, and "Death Iz on You" is just good, old-fashioned 'hood shit. Had Tone titled all his songs after religious themes, then crafted rhymes around them, that would've been a true revelation.

Tuggz, Hood Therapy, **1/2

Tuggz occupies an interesting space—a newcomer who's physically here but remains lyrically stuck in the Midwest—that is, when he's not sharing the microphone with his Cali compadres. The result is an album that's musically indistinct. For example, "Banged Out" is the kind of trunk-banger West Coasters love, but it seems out of place here.

Tuggz's moderately effective quantity-equals-quality approach yields some nice-enough tracks, like hustler's anthem "Grindin," up-from-the-gutter "Listen" and "Talkin Shit," which features this gem: "Yes it's me, emcee incredible/Eat emcees like niggas be edible/Hannibal, eat yo' ass up like cantaloupe/I went to Iraq to rub on me some camel toes." But too many of the songs feel like filler, and too few focus on what goes on in 'hoods here.

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