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5th Ward BoyzP.W.A. The Album -- Keep It Poppin' Rap-A-Lot

The members of the Houston rap trio 5th Ward Boyz aren't stupid enough to let a sure thing slip by them. But they also aren't savvy enough to keep it from crashing horribly, either. On their last album, 1997's Usual Suspects, they scored a cult hit with "P.W.A." (a.k.a. "Pussy, Weed and Alcohol"). That debaucherous tune soon became a favorite at butt-nekkid clubs and big-booty contests all over the South. Knowing a good thing when they see one, the Boyz -- Roc, 007 and Low Life -- decided to expound on the pleasures of sex and stimulants and conceptually craft their next album around the ascerbic mantra. The problem: If you've heard one song about pussy, weed and alcohol, you've heard them all.

And, unfortunately, all of them appear on this one album.

If there is nothing worse than being gimmicky in rap music, it's being also predictable and repetitious. As always, the Boyz couldn't be more formulaic. Their stance as playas so seductive that they'll have any girl on their knees in a South Park second gets old more quickly than you think. Their outrageous, gratuitous ribaldry is supposed to be seen as fearless and unabashed, but it comes off more as cowardly and irresponsible. "It's a shame on how you bitches let us do y'all," one of those dudes says on "Head, Pussy, Fingertips and Lips," one of the many racy tracks (which the Boyz call "sho stories") that cloud this album. Could someone explain how the hell it's women's fault these guys sound so played out?

And let's not forget how dangerous these cats are. Nestled among the bitch-and-ho tunes are songs about the group's thuggish, criminal qualities, such as "Rhyme or Crime" and "Til' They Kill Me." If you have a hard time believing they're inner-city playboys, then believing they're ghetto gangstas will be an even harder sell. Even the accompanying instrumental work, which usually saved the Boyz from their decadent selves on previous albums, can't save them here. There is one instance that shows at least a smidgen of progress. On the track "Jealous," the Boyz seem more believable than Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs does on his whole Forever album when they talk about how folks playa-hate them. Unfortunately, this was the only bright spot on the record.

It's saddening that people who'll probably buy this album will be too hypnotized by the naughty nature of the material (the cover consists of a scantily clad stripper in the obligatory Lil' Kim-style squat pose) to notice how shallow, lethargic and immature the whole affair is. To borrow a verse from the chorus of their song "Buckin'": "It used to be fun / But now it's getting boring to me."

 
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