No turntables, one mic

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If you say it fast, "raw as hell" sounds like Rahzel. And he is. Just listen to the mad array of oral pyrotechnics he puts down on his first solo effort, Make The Music 2000, and you’ll be a believer.

With just a microphone and no turntables, Rahzel, of Illadelphia’s legendary Roots crew, follows in the creative tradition of the Fat Boys’ Buff the Human Beatbox, Doug E. Fresh and Biz Markie. But on the real, he’s probably better than all of them. And for the haters, just check the interlude entitled "If Your Mother Only Knew" (recorded live) in which Rahzel sings a hook and drops a beat at the same time. Straight up, no tricks, just raw as hell talent.

Unfortunately these interludes are more satisfying than listening to the other cuts on the record. Perhaps that’s because Rahzel’s lyrical flow is mediocre, or maybe it’s because, with a few fresh exceptions, the songs on MTM 2000 all fall short of either profound, sensitive musicality or FM-radio catchiness.

But not the low-key collaboration, "Southern Girl" with the otherworldly Erykah Badu. This time the composition is nice — sparse music with rich style. Rahzel lays down a crisp, jazzy, almost Bobby McFerrinlike beat and Badu eases over it, sweet and slow, like honey. First she busts a little be-bop scat, then she gets bad:

"Southern girl/and I rock ya’ world/Fly as a bumble-bee (buzz) Can’t nobody fuck with me."

Rahzel’s other standout is the title track, a remake of "Make the Music With Your Mouth Biz." It does the original justice and then some.

MTM 2000 needs better rap from better MCs. Guest stars Q-Tip and Black Thought hold their own, but Rahzel needs a true partner, the way Doug E. Fresh had Slick Rick and Buff had the other two Fat Boys.

Maybe Rahzel can really drop a gem on us when he finds the right MC foil. But in the meanwhile, the "Godfather of Noyze" will only fire you up with his uncanny Wu-Tang shtick and not his 12-inch singles.

On the intro to MTM 2000, an anonymous announcer says, "We got somebody to fuck your head up." True dat, but lacking vision and without super MCs, this album is more a testament to Rahzel’s mad skills than anything else.

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