"Instructions" leans too hard on a single rhythmic template--a processional beat topped with a shimmering high-hat, with [JERMAINE DUPRI] rough- riding along to the bump and grind. But the album's worst offense isn't even its anemic hip-hop. It's the endless, humorless, interstitial "skits" that lard the record. This kind of thing should have gone out with gold chains and Kangol hat. "Instructions" sounds half-cocked, a joy ride running on fumes.
The Memphis sextet and assorted friends rap over whirlwinds of violent noise that will likely scare the daylights out of the meek. "Shootin' First," featuring Mafia members Gangsta Boo and Crunchy Black, lets listeners know that this collective remains on the offensive as it navigates the deadly streets depicted in the movie, out on DVD and video Nov. 6 and among the strongest of the many released by hip-hop acts. Producers-rappers DJ Paul and Juicy "J" create searing, assaulting beats.
* * Erick Sermon, "Music," J. This rap legend's recently sluggish solo career was resurrected by the late Marvin Gaye last summer when Sermon culled some unused vocals by the legendary singer for his popular "Music" single. On his fourth album (due Tuesday), Sermon (who was hospitalized earlier this month in an apparent suicide attempt) relies on the tried-and-true formula he first used for success in the 1980s with the duo EPMD. Sermon's easygoing, brag- heavy rapping is highlighted by clever references to current events, while his neck-snapping, funk-drenched beats remain bass-heavy and irresistible.