Sweet wordplay for a bitter edge

DJ Quik

"Trauma" (Mad Science)

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SINCE his emergence in the early 1990s, this Compton rapper-producer-musician has been one of the music's most innovative and underappreciated talents. His melodic beats helped define the funk-drenched, West Coast rap sound and his silky raps have reported on the joy and pain Quik has seen and experienced in the tumultuous streets of Southern California.

On his seventh album, Quik enhances both his musicianship and his rapping, updating his sound by focusing on an airy, crisp production style that tones down the funk backbone and draws attention to the groove-driven guitar, horn, drum and turntable work that propels the sonic side of the album.

Quik's stream-of-consciousness lyrics feature more passion than he's had in years and also include some of the best wordplay of his career. The somber "Intro for Roger," the soulful "Jet Set" and the bouncy "Till Jesus Comes" document Quik's struggle with friends and family, while the thumping "Catch 22" describes the crippling impact violence has on communities and families.

Even on the more upbeat selections (i.e., the sensuous "Black Mercedes"), Quik still infuses his lyrics with the edge typical of a person scorned. Indeed, there's an undercurrent of bitterness and rage that fuels "Trauma," making for an intense musical journey that resonates long after the music stops.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). Albums reviewed are in stores except as indicated.

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