DOPE RAP: Dr. Dre, co-founder of hardcore rap act N.W.A and (according to many) rap's top producer, takes no prisoners on his solo debut, The Chronic ( 1/2). The title is slang for potent marijuana, the mildest affront in this series of urban shock waves. Whether he's raging about the L.A. riots on The Day the Niggaz Took Over or deglamorizing gang life in Lil Ghetto Boy and Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat, Dre steeps biting lyrics in funkadelic shadings, blunt beats and walls of noise. Only Lyrical Gangbang relies on samples: drums from Led Zeppelin and guitar from the Meters. Some attempts at humor flop, and messages occasionally deteriorate into malevolent tirades, but Dre's prowess as beat-master and street preacher is undeniable.
RHINO RETRO: Underground punk and New Wave trailblazers are celebrated in Rhino Records' nine-volume DiY series, an overdue overview that refutes any notion of the '70s as musical wasteland. DiY stands for "do it yourself," the punk rock ethic that launched revolutionaries who communicated with naked fury, larynx-crippling barks and untutored musicianship. Of the four CDs devoted to British punk and pop, the essentials are Anarchy in the UK: UK Punk I (1976-77) and The Modern World: UK Punk II (1977-78) (both 1/2). The Sex Pistols are poorly represented, but Generation X, The Damned, the Buzzcocks and the Stranglers submit material strong enough to prove the Pistols weren't the era's only card-carrying agitators.
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