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With “The Infamous” back in 1995, Mobb Deep did the near-impossible: They matched the mighty Wu-Tang Clan’s “Enter the 36 Chambers” rhyme for rhyme and beat for beat. That dazzling album was a soundtrack for a lost generation of wild kids roaming the grimy New York streets in search of the next cheap thrill, illegal gain or suicidal showdown.

“Hell on Earth” is just as alluring, pessimistic and downright scary as its predecessor. Sure, there’s plenty of ammunition for anti-rap crusaders. Why is there a segue before the brooding “G.O.D Pt. III” in which a kid shoots a rival from a window as he ambles across a courtyard? Isn’t there more to their lives than ambushes and murder?

Maybe not. But with Scorsese-like finesse, Mobb Deep serves up its underworld with such verve that even the most brutal characters glow with respectful purpose. The hypnotic “Get Dealt With” and the jazzy “Hell on Earth (Front Lines)” are only two of 14 funky reasons this album does not disappoint.

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


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