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A Lighter Shade of Brown Lightens Up

A LIGHTER SHADE OF BROWN “Hip Hop Locos” Pump/Quality * * *

Cypress Hill . . . Mellow Man Ace . . . Kid Frost.

The list of prominent Latino rappers used to abruptly end there--and the last two are marginal entries at that. But in the last few months, A Lighter Shade of Brown has emerged as a solid challenger to Cypress.

The key to LSOB’s rapid rise is “Homies,” the hot single that boasts enticing samples of the Miracles’ “Tracks of My Tears” and a moving, tough-tender tale of two buddies. The rest of the album offers nothing quite in this league but does feature several “almosts,” including the low-rider classic “Spill the Wine,” which samples the old War hit.

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LSOB--consisting of Robert Gutierrez (rap name: ODM) and Bobby Ramirez (DTTX)--were big in the L.A. Latino community long before “Homies” hit. But their first album, “Brown and Proud,” was excessively message-oriented. The so-so beats and fairly ragged raps didn’t help.

This time the group lightened up on the messages, injected more fun and came up with raps more geared to the pop mainstream. But it’s not a sellout--just music with a broader perspective. The production values on the new album are much improved, with crisper beats and more riveting raps. At this rate of improvement, LSOB just may climb over Cypress Hill on the next album.

New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four (excellent).


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