Mobb Deep 

Amerikaz Nightmare

Though the album title is gaffled from Spice One, there's no need to revoke Mobb Deep's ghetto pass just yet. On their fourth full-length, the Queensbridge duo of Havoc and Prodigy finally hit the thug motherlode with an album that contains enough graphic violence, chauvinistic braggadocio, and ominous yet infectious beats to keep listeners shook all the way through.

Amerikaz Nightmare is easily the Mobb's best release yet, one that succeeds in doing what its last album, Murda Muzik, only tried. The challenge for Hav and P has always been to make their infamous QB slangisms universal enough for Thug Nation and its suburban wanksta affiliates without losing what gave them their edgy flavor to begin with. A'ight then; so the duns handle that with three big-time tracks: the current single "Got it Twisted," with its Thomas Dolby sample; "Dump," an above-average collaboration with everybody's favorite hook factory, Nate Dogg; and "Real Gangstas," featuring everybody's favorite ambassador of crunk, Lil' Jon.

Perfectly suited for committing major felonies to, Amerikaz Nightmare is no iPod album: You'll want the world to know you're mobbin' with Hav and P when you play it. The lyrical pace is relentless, although there are more not-so-subtle threats of retaliation than overly morbid descriptions of murder and mayhem on these sixteen tracks. There's only one stab at R&B crossover, "Win or Lose," and even then Mobb Deep don't tone down the steez, resulting in one of the most poignant songs of the duo's career, one that might actually deserve to be in rotation on every goddamn station in the whole country.

These days, the notion of exactly what "the real hip-hop" is (and the role of gangsta rap in it) may be open to debate, but one thing is clear: Amerikaz Nightmare is as good as the major-label variety of rap gets in 2004.

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