Nelly - Brass Knuckles

American rapper Nelly christened this, his fourth major label album, Brass Knuckles because he felt it had a harder edge than any of his previous output. Sure enough this is a long way from Dilemma, the duet with ex-Destiny's Child lovely Kelly Rowland for which he's probably best known in this country. And after listening to it, you feel like you've been hit over the head with a blunt instrument repeatedly.

The faintly nauseating front cover of this one says it all - what we have here is posturing machismo all the way. The beats are as bludgeoningly repetitive and irritating as the lyrical content, all bluster and swagger without any sense of subtlety or wit. The ironic thing is that a lot of undoubtedly talented people have worked on this album, but maybe it's just a case of too many cooks, with 13 of the 15 tracks featuring guest performers. Snoop phones in a bored-sounding spot on LA (is there a mainstream hip-hop/R 'n' B release in the last 5 years he hasn't appeared on?), while Public Enemy's Chuck D adds a touch of gravitas to the funky Self-Esteem. The execrable Fergie adds nothing to Party People, but it still manages to be the pick of the bunch, an upbeat stomper with single written all over it - which only managed to limp into the UK charts at number 14 earlier this year. Even big hitters like Usher, Pharrell (on a track produced by The Neptunes), R Kelly and *shudder* Akon can't serve to up the quality.

Lil' Wayne's Tha Carter 3 already demonstrated just what commercial hip-hop can achieve in 2008, and in comparison Nelly sounds tired, dated and pretty darn clueless. One to avoid.



out of 10

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