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Thursday, Nov. 3, 2005 07:42 am

The Lady Lou bounce

Ebony Eyez kicks out a worthy addition to the St. Louis hip-hop canon

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Ebony Eyez 7 Day Cycle (Capitol)

Ebony Eyez
7 Day Cycle
(Capitol)

The first female rapper from St. Louis to score a major-label deal, Ebony Eyez seems fully aware of her precedent-setting achievement — and maybe a bit defensive about it, too. “Nelly, Chingy, and ’Kwon put us on the map,” she notes. “But niggaz actin’ like a b**h out of the Lou can’t rap.” A single spin of 7 Day Cycle, her promising, if imperfect, debut, should silence the skeptics. She may not be a lyricist of Jay-Z’s, Eminem’s, or even Kanye West’s caliber (not yet, anyway), but most of her rhymes are more clever and coherent than those of her celebrated homeboys — not to mention more hardcore. Besides, with Lil’ Kim in the hoosegow and Eve rolling with the fashionistas, the national rap scene, which is only slightly less male-dominated than the NFL, can always use another female voice. Produced by the recently disbanded Trackboyz, the team that crafted monster hits for Nappy Roots, Nelly, and J-Kwon, Cycle contains all the hallmarks of the duo’s fat-bottomed and futuristic sound: triumphalist keyboard hooks and stomping beats interposed with glitchy clatter, percussive panting, quirky samples, and down-home guitar chords. Combined with Ebony Eyez’s sassy singsong flow and obligatory St. Louis dialect (in which “care” becomes “curr” and “ear” becomes “urr” — anyone who’s heard “Hot in Herre” can break the code), the formula seems fail-safe, at least on the CD’s best tracks. The first single, the intransigently smutty “In Ya Face,” ruled the clubs last summer, with good reason. But what seems at first to be yet another tired sop to booty-fetishizing ballers soon reveals itself as a withering put-on as Ebony Eyez asks, with hyperenunciated politeness, whether she can plant her rump on some dope’s mug. (Confidential to Ebony: Nice try, but horndogs are congenitally immune to irony.) In addition to a lumbering, stadium-shaking hook, the track contains a few classic couplets, including the following gem: “Fellas wanna date us, and the heifers want to fight us/Cuz the word ain’t got around that my joints is tight as arthritis.” Other highlights include “Good Vibrations,” a feminist-friendly ode to onanism; the playa-hatin’ “Drop It” (“Don’t ask me for my name, and you don’t need to know my number/And don’t worry if I got my big ol’ booty from my momma”); and the devastating prayer “Dear Father,” which eschews consumerist clichés in favor of hardscrabble realities such as unpaid electric bills, pregnancy scares, and breast cancer. Although Cycle is marred by a few missteps (e.g., the unspeakably wack contributions of R&B crooner Trey Songz, who almost single-handedly ruins two songs) and, like 99.9 percent of all commercial hip-hop CDs, is about 20 minutes too long, it’s still a worthy addition to the St. Louis-bounce canon — and a fitting epitaph to the Trackboyz’s collaboration. More important, it inaugurates a fresh and sorely needed talent, one whose skills outweigh the novelty of her sex.

Minotaur Shock
Maritime
(4AD)

Maritime, the sophomore full-length from producer/multiinstrumentalist Minotaur Shock (a.k.a. David Edwards), is an electronic CD for people who don’t necessarily dig electronic music, people who demand hummable melodies and honest-to-God instruments along with danceable beats and kooky loops. More like instrumental synth-pop than straightforward techno, Maritime splits the difference between the chrome-plated contours of Hall & Oates and the spikier textures of Matmos and Boards of Canada. Stuttering thumps and video-arcade bleats mix surprisingly well with cowbells, clarinets, tambourines, accordions, and flutes, but Maritime isn’t just about ingenious programming. It’s a testament to Edwards’ prowess as a composer that the longer tracks, such as the luminous “Somebody Once Told Me It Existed but They Never Found It,” are also the most compelling.
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