Le Bien Et La Mal

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Here are 25 cuts, recorded live on two CDs, that present the case for hip hop’s overseas viability. Sadly, the jury has come back hung; and sadly there aren’t enough standout tracks on this record to make you part with 20 bones.

On the flipside, when Solaar doesn’t come across like "Le Will Smith" ("Galaktika" really sounds and feels like how French kids "get jiggy wit it") he’s waxing poetic about paradise, commercial society and even global destiny. "Quand le Soleil Devient Froid" is hip microanalysis about what happens "When the Sun Gets Cold" and, as Solaar says in the liner notes, "the life system of the world stops functioning." The arrangement on this song is butter: a slow, heavy bass drop, a sweet, clever piano hook and the above mentioned, pseudo-profound Y2Kism as a chorus.

Solaar may or may not be French rap at its finest, but his third offering is a testament to rap’s newly acquired status as super-product. Either way, Le Tour de la Question is preferable to being subjugated to that No Limit, Bad Boy and Cash Money bullshit. But with the same now-generic "Jazzmatazz" (Guru’s influential hip-hop jazz fusion side project) musical style and tired token scratches, Solaar’s lyricism is often not enough to propel this album past artistic mediocrity.

However, this record is yet further evidence that urbanites across the globe don’t want to be left behind. The French want that new, postmodern urban expression, too. Can you blame ’em? Besides, you know how it is: De La Soul said it – "everybody wants to be a DJ, everybody wants to be an MC." Bien sur.

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