Picks and Pans Review: Play It Again, Shan

updated 08/13/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/13/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

M.C. Shan

Now that major record companies have finally discovered rap, they seem to introduce about five new stars every hour. No wonder that a few top-notch performers such as M.C. Shan get lost in the crowd.

M.C. Shan (Shawn Moltke) exudes key qualities for rap stardom: personality, energy and a wicked way with words. Though he, like many rappers, delivers a few too many songs that merely boast about his rapping talents, at least he does it with flair and humor. When Shan's songs move on to other topics, such as police brutality and the effects of drugs, he raps with style.

Play It Again, Shan holds more musical variety than a lot of rap albums, because a funky house beat often lights a spark to the raps. "Ain't I Good to You" zaps out enough bouncy energy to set crowds hopping across the dance floor, even if Shan filches the overused trademark whoop from Rob Base's hit song "It Takes Two."

Considering how he turned a dead-end life into a success, Shan has reason to feel the exuberance he injects into his music. In the early '80s he was stealing cars at such an early age—16—that the cops refused to believe he was the criminal. In 1983 Shan had what might be called a lucky break-in. He attempted to vandalize a car and got caught by its owner, Tyrone Williams, a rap manager.

Williams berated the kid, then offered a tempting deal. If Shan passed his high school equivalency exam, Williams would help him start a rap career. The young rapscallion not only passed the exam but he turned his life around. Now he's a family man, with a son, Shan Jr., and wife Terri, who sings one track on the new album.

Though rap rarely comes with printed lyrics, Shan breaks with the norm. Newcomers to the genre will appreciate the chance to read along as they get the hang of the rhythms and the slang. Shan promises, "Each word will hit you like the slap of a backhand/ and look at you, you're eating this up like Pac-Man." An exaggeration, but Shan is such a master of his trade that this album, at least, amounts to a hill of beans in this crazy world. (Warner)

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