HIP-HOP

Monkey Business

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After finally getting some love from the masses with their third album, 2003's double-platinum Elephunk, the Black Eyed Peas don't mess with that disc's successful formula on its follow-up, Monkey Business, which finds the hip-hoppers up to more fun, festive shenanigans. The coed quartet—consisting of rappers will.i.am, apl.de.ap and Taboo, as well as soulful siren Fergie—gets the party started right away with the contagious opener "Pump It," which features surfguitar, mariachi horns and a hand-clapping groove that commands you to crank up the volume. They keep the booty shaking on high with the Top 5 first single "Don't Phunk with My Heart," which employs trancey electronica elements and borrows from the 1985 Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam freestyle classic "I Wonder If I Take You Home," and "My Style," a percussive club banger that reunites the Peas with lucky charm Justin Timberlake (also the guest singer on their breakthrough hit "Where Is the Love"). Elsewhere, the Peas get back into a reggae riddim on tracks like the "Hey Mama"-esque "Dum Diddly" and the cautionary tale "Gone Going," which samples liberally from Jack Johnson's "Gone." They stay in socially conscious mode for "Union," a peace anthem that features guest vocalist Sting and lazily reworks his 1987 song "Englishman in New York." But the Peas get cooking with the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, on the funky throwdown "They Don't Want Music."

DOWNLOAD THIS: "Don't Phunk with My Heart"

HIP-HOP

Rock of Ages...Hymns & Faith
CRITIC'S CHOICE

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Musically Amy Grant has always kept one foot in the sacred world and one foot in the secular one. In keeping with that balancing act, she follows up her pop turn on 2003's Simple Things with a spiritual offering on Rock of Ages, a praiseworthy sequel to 2002's Legacy...Hymns & Faith. This quietly inspiring collection, consisting mostly of religious standards, plays to Grant's strengths; while she has seemed unwilling or unable to be as overtly sexual as some pop singers today, expressing devotion seems to come easily to her. She sounds terrific, melodic and crisp of diction as always, and she never over-sings (although she does rush the tempo a little on the "Ode to Joy" variation "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee"). Grant also had the great judgment to bring in her husband, country star Vince Gill, who coproduced the album (with Brown Bannister), and he lends his angelic tenor to a moving version of "Rock of Ages." Gill and Rich Bennett evoke Chet Atkins ("St. Chet" to many in Nashville) with their lyrical guitar support on "Anywhere with Jesus." Not all Christian music is truly musical. Grant's certainly is.

DOWNLOAD THIS: "Rock of Ages"

CHRISTIAN

In Your Honor

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In honor of the 10th anniversary of their 1995 self-titled debut, the Foo Fighters decided to do a little something special: release a double album featuring one CD of the quartet rocking out at its hardest and an acoustic CD of the band stripped down and mellowed out as never before. While the effect of this ying-yang approach can be a bit jarring when taken as a whole, it results in two distinctly rewarding listening experiences.

Disc 1 is for the headbangers, with the Foo crew ripping into metallic tracks such as first single "Best of You" and the ferocious "Free Me," which, with its raw guitar crunch and frontman Dave Grohl's primal yell, sounds like an out-take from Grohl's old group Nirvana.

But Disc 2 is the real revelation, boasting a spare, quiet beauty that highlights FF's gift for melody on affecting ballads like "Miracle" and "On the Mend." Even the bossa-nova-tinged "Virginia Moon," with Norah Jones on vocals and piano, casts a soft glow.

DOWNLOAD THIS: "On the Mend"

ALT-ROCKJASON MRAZ returns in catchy, laid-back style with "Wordplay," the tongue-in-cheek first single from Mr.A-Z, the singer-songwriter's new album due July 26, at iTunes.com.

DMX, with his trademark growl, cranks up the party vibe on "Pump Ya Fist," a hard-driving preview of the gangsta rapper's upcoming CD Here We Go Again, at aolmusic.com.

KAREN O, leader of indie rockers the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, shows her softer side with an ethereal solo turn on the airy "Hello Tomorrow," at iTunes.

JOSS STONE (right) belts out a seductive version of the Ray Charles classic "The Right Time," as heard on the British singer's recent Gap commercial, at iTunes.

For information on where to find our Download This picks, go to www.people.com/downloadthis or AOL (Keyword: People)

  • Contributors:
  • Chuck Arnold,
  • Ralph Novak.