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Devin the Dude

To Tha X-Treme (Rap-A-Lot)

You've no doubt heard of wine, women and song. Devin the Dude, the funniest of Houston's rappers, has too. But what really gets him going is weed, women and bongs.

Almost every one of To Tha X-Treme's 17 songs concerns either smoke or hotties -- as he says, he's "a cooled-out mellow laid-back fellow, smokin'-out type of dude" who likes to get "higher than a thumbtack on a flyer of Reba McEntire," especially when there's someone special to do it with. And though you're probably sick of songs about hydro and females, you'd be missing out if you didn't check out Devin's X-Treme.

Like Mike Skinner of the Streets and precious few others, the life represented on Devin's records is a pretty close approximation of real life as lived by real people -- not the hyperviolent super-antihero cartoons of the likes of 50 Cent, the perpetual orgy and club-smashing frenzy that is the alleged life of Ludacris, or the Cristal-popping party-arty-arty of Master P's stable.

Nope, Devin's life is just about copping a bag and getting his rocks off. I know people like that, you know people like that. But few of us know people who can rap about it entertainingly in funky, bluesy packages backed by samples like James Taylor's "Shower the People."

And as befits his sly, understated and often hilarious verses, the music soothes like jazz instead of bellowing like crunk. Harps and violins swirl and billow like angel-bearing clouds around St. Peter's Gate on the Kanye West-like "Cooter Brown," an infectious whistled hook bounces the jaunty got-caught-cheatin' tale "Whot?" along pleasantly, while "Don't Go" serves up a slow, lascivious, disco-ball-on-the-boudoir-ceiling groove that'll have you directing pornos in your head. Or better yet, acting them out.

While there are some stems and seeds in this sack ("Come On Come" is pretty boring), the bulk of the disc is pure, sticky red-hair sense. You'd be wise to light it up with someone you want to get to know a lot better.

 
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