Rap: [Lil' Kim], La Bella Mafia ( * * * out of four) In the three years since The Notorious K.I.M. went platinum, a number of raunchy rivals have cropped up to challenge Kim's Queen Bee status. On this album, she takes to the streets to fend off her rivals with harder, edgier beats and lyrical reminders about just who she is. Her seemingly insatiable desires for extravagant living and sexual pleasure are the overriding themes, though she fires off several salvos at those who would take her throne. She flosses big-time on such party anthems as first single The Jump Off, with Mr. Cheeks, and quirky (When Kim Say) Can You Hear Me Now? with Missy Elliott. She works her mojo on Magic Stick with 50 Cent, and she shows her belligerence toward her competitors by flipping R. Kelly's A Woman's Threat into the pointed This Is a Warning. But this album is probably her least explicit. Perhaps she realizes that what she did to shock the world on 1996's Hard Core is now so commonplace it makes more sense for her to concentrate on the music. -- Steve Jones
Ministry, Animositisomina ( * * 1/2) Industrial-rock pioneers Al Jourgensen and Paul Barker seemed to hit a dead end with 1999's murky and tedious Dark Side of the Spoon, which followed a career nose dive and battles with heroin addiction. But the dark duo shows fresh promise on their ninth studio album, a mixed bag of novel ideas and tired formulas. The odd time signatures and faint melodies that weave through Ministry's dense walls of noise are as unwieldy as the album's title (a palindrome that almost spells "animosity" forward then backward). With devilish verve, monster guitars and banks of computers, Ministry fashions metallic mayhem that vibrates with the rawness of punk despite its machined and manicured contours. And amid the thunder and rage, there's a surprisingly respectful cover of Magazine's The Light Pours Out of Me. -- [Edna Gundersen]
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