Snoop Dogg and dirty words go together like gin and juice. But only the "clean" version of the new Snoop album was made available for this critic to review. Surprisingly, it doesn't detract much from enjoying Ego Trippin'
—turns out there's a lot more to Snoop than his foul mouth. Despite misguided attempts at singing ("Sensual Seduction") and going country ("My Medicine"), he can still win you over with his drawled delivery, sly rhymes and pimp-daddy charm. "From Jessica Alba
to Jessica Simpson
/ Even Jessica Biel
wanna know how I feel," he raps on "Deez Hollywood Nights." But on the closer, the Charlie Wilson-assisted "Can't Say Goodbye," Snoop reveals that while he may have gone Hollywood, his heart is never far from the hood.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Gangsta Like Me," a slinky, stone-cold groove
You may have already heard this French-born, Israeli-bred singer-songwriter in the commercial for Mac's new ultrathin Air notebook, where her delightful ditty "New Soul" provides appropriately light and breezy accompaniment. (In a nice bit of synergy, the single has already hit No. 1 on the iTunes chart.) Naim displays more of that gentle, nimble touch on the rest of her exotic U.S. debut, whether she's singing in English or Hebrew, or channeling Joni Mitchell or Sarah McLachlan.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Toxic," her intoxicating, torched-up take on the Britney Spears
Made in the Dark
The knock against electronica is often that it lacks soul. Not so with this British outfit, which shows real flesh and blood, along with the blips and bleeps, on their sizzling third disc. While there are plenty of club-conscious beats on tracks such as the aptly named highlight "Ready for the Floor," they are just as capable of delivering a melancholy pop ballad like the title cut.
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Here I Stand, Usher's long-awaited follow-up to 2004's Confessions
, doesn't even come out until June, but he has already hit No. 1 with this hip-hop mackfest featuring rapper Young Jeezy.
CHERI DENNIS In and Out of LoveDiddy
's latest hip-hop soul protégée, signed to his Bad Boy Records, is no Mary J. We've heard all of this before—she even rips from MJB's "Love No Limit" on "All I Wanna Do"—and heard it done better.
RAY DAVIES Working Man's Café
After finally releasing his first official solo album in 2006, the former Kinks leader is on a roll. While not quite up to Other People's Lives
, this is another fine effort with tasteful, café-ready fare like "Imaginary Man."
ASHTON SHEPHERD Sounds So Good
With a robust voice and rich songwriting (she wrote or co-wrote 10 of 11 cuts), this Alabama native makes an impressive country debut. Among the best: "Takin' Off This Pain," the feisty first single.
MARCUS MILLER Marcus
Mixing new grooves and old faves, the bass guitarist lays down some note-popping, hip-shaking funk with help from guests like Lalah Hathaway, Keb' Mo' and Corinne Bailey Rae (on the Deniece Williams cover "Free").
Fresh off a gig on Saturday Night Live
, these Columbia University grads are now in another league. We caught up with front man Ezra Koenig, 23.
ON BECOMING BIG MEN ON CAMPUS We were all friends in college—we were jocks. No, not really! Our first six months [in 2006] we mostly played campus events and parties. It was hard to tell [if people liked us] because they were our friends, and people were totally drunk.
ON THEIR BAND NAME One summer I started making a movie inspired by The Lost Boys
called Vampire Weekend. And the band just decided to take the name.
ON THEIR CAREER PATH We all had these kind of limited liberal-arts educations which don't necessarily spell out any particular job. [After graduation] I was working as a teacher, and we decided we should start touring and just go for it.
On THEIR COOL RIDE The first tour we scraped together enough money to buy a used minivan. So we could just barely pack all of our equipment and the four of us into the four seats. Like we couldn't even bring a friend with us. This was just a couple of weeks ago!