"It Takes a Thief"

Tommy Boy

* * * 1/2

If rappers were packaged like carbonated beverages, L.A. rap veteran Coolio would be in the refrigerator case marked "Compton Classic."

Here are the hard-edged beats, the rhymes, the familiar '70s soul samples, the goofed-up comedy of the hard-core life that worked so well on the early Eazy-E 12-inchers. N.W.A.-style crime narratives, told from the point of view of a well-armed burglar, seem uncomfortably well-researched; the street-corner giggles come at the expense of crackheads, knuckleheads and ugly women.

But while you've heard most of this before, this may be one of the best hard-core Compton rap records since the first N.W.A. album.

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

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