Slim Thug 

Already Platinum

With a Hammer of the Gods voice and enough street cred to be the ghetto president, Slim Thug is the latest import from the scorching Houston underground. Of course, it doesn't hurt that his major-label debut, the optimistically titled Already Platinum, is a collaborative effort with reigning pop kings the Neptunes. It's an effective pairing -- the Neptunes' airy minimalism provides a perfect backdrop for Slim's hard, punishing flows. On the dizzying, aquatic "Diamonds," he revisits his H-Town chopped and screwed roots, while "Ashy to Classy" finds the normally menacing Slim getting sentimental over the Neptunes' signature neo-R&B. Surprisingly Already Platinum is not only one of the better hip-hop CDs of the year, but it's also one of the most balanced.

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