Aaaah, Aaliyah, so alluring. Her soulful voice jumps out of the speakers and seduces
the psyche with silky phrases. It is by far the most appealing element of a hip-hop
anthology that showcases an enormous array of talent without ever taking full advantage of
No less than 21 "artists and producers" are credited as having
"contributed to this album" and another dozen are listed as "the creative
team". There is a tendency in the world of hip-hop, rap and dance for these
"creative family"-style collaborations to supersede the nuclear four-piece band
(or solo artist plus producer and session players).
Is it an exciting development or a dangerous move towards too many cooks? In this
instance, the broth of clever production techniques bubbles and squeaks with saporous,
interweaving bass and drum lines. But while the stuttering rhythms and slinky licks and
tricks provide transient interest, they fail to enthral.
Hints of classy composition in tracks like Woozy (Playa) and Perfect Man
(Destiny’s Child) only serve to highlight an overall lack of depth in the
songwriting. Perfect Man, in particular, sets out on a journey encompassing frenetic
percussion and multifarious stabs of sound, only to fail to find a chorus.
Meanwhile Blade’s Come On is replete with ear-pricking oriental riffs and pan
flute embellishments that are sadly undermined by the blunted nature of Blade’s rap.
The four tracks featuring Aaliyah certainly benefit from her sublime tone, but while
each has its moments, they hardly do her justice. The opening track Try Again has an
irresistible one-line hook and little else, while I Don’t Wanna is a well-crafted,
though hardly brilliant, song that should represent the least of her standard fare. .
Most disappointingly, not even the presence of bass virtuoso Stanley Clarke manages to
lift this compilation from interesting to inspirational. There are simply too many cute
production affectations and too little heart—or soul. Cool taste and clever touches
are all very well, but great music should bowl you over like a kung-fu kick to the solar
Published: October 5, 2000