Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Ghetto Fabulous
Jive/No Limit


No Limit

Beyond the carpetbagging Snoop Dogg, only two New Orleans MCs stand out from the thick-tongued brigade of brooding brutes and braggarts who have overrun the charts for the greater glory of Master P and the Jewelers of America: Mystikal and Mia X. As fascinating a rap stylist as Snoop himself, Mystikal sets sputtering speed gutturals at permanent bellow, while Mia X's soft drawl is nothing special. But their 1997 albums, Unpredictable and Unlady Like, shared a vulnerability that came alive in mourning songs for a sister and a homegirl. On their follow-ups, however, both artists fall into step with their fellow soldiers.

Mia X is a bit player on Mama-Drama's lead and third tracks, devoted to de rigueur chest-beating by the No Limit army. And when she wants to prove she's one of the boys, she trades in the silly but audaciously gender-bent mackstress routines of Unlady Like for cliched-to-death claims of gun-slinging battle prowess. The standout "Puttin' It Down" is a nonstop group exercise that could be on any No Limit album, and though she still occasionally asserts her female pride, her child and her dead homegirl disappear into endless songs about thug services rendered. Even at her most humane she's praising a man--"Daddy."

Mystikal fares no better. After years of professional struggle reflected in the desperation of Unpredictable, he's a big cheese, which translates to one more posturing tough among toughs. The raw rapping and mad rhymes of tracks like "I'm on Fire" and "Whatcha Want, Whatcha Need" are far from generic. But his musical command will pass right by the unenlightened millions who've never thought of buying a No Limit record, and never will.

Rolling Stone, Jan. 21, 1999