CD Review

'Nature of a Sista''; Queen Latifah; Tommy Boy Music. A smattering of recent releases gives a taste of styles ranging from blues, folk, musical theater, classical, rap, and rock. The writers share 11 compact discs they find noteworthy.

On "Nature of a Sista' " Queen Latifah's rap is for the most part irresistibly danceable. She is still experimenting with reggae, and she's singing more on the new album - innovations that may be pure creativity, but may also be another instance of a rapper softening the music's hard edges in search of a broader audience. Either way, sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't."Nuff' of the Ruff' Stuff" defends Latifah's nonviolent, nonsexist first album, mixing rap with a reggae chorus. Real drums and horns give the music a more complicated character than the basic rhyme-plus-rhythm rap formula. The writing is witty; her rap has "enough flavor," she tells us, "to make a grapefruit sweet." She addresses racism, destructive relationships between men and women, and says her messages may be positive, but her music is "Bad as a Mutha." She leavens the mix with "If You Don't Know," an arresting, funky track that says rap and hip-hop music are really about dancing. Sometimes her pop inclinations drag her off course."Give Me Your Love" integrates song, rap, and breathy talking in a rap love ballad. But rap was created to counter the lovey-dovey world of pop music with social awareness. The song ends up being Rap Lite - sounds OK, less filling.

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