Album: Tha Liks

XO Experience (Loud/Epic)
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The Independent Culture

Despite having abbreviated their name for this fourth album, The Rappers Formerly Known As Tha Alkaholiks remain as besotted (sic) as ever with their main source of inspiration. Barely a track goes by without some reference to booze – though sadly, their tastes are far from adventurous, rarely straying beyond the hip hop staples of forty-ounce malt liquor and the occasional reference to Hennessey, the gold rope of cognacs. Over dark, funky grooves fashioned from electro-click breakbeats, pulsing synths and horn samples, they conjugate their own addiction through lines like "The bottle to your lip/When I sip, you sip, we sip", promising to render listeners so verbally squiffy we'll "think you're seeing nine, but there's only the three of us". Their logo is a sozzled homeboy kneeling at the porcelain altar – appropriately enough, because although the plethora of drink metaphors makes a welcome change from the usual hip hop fusillade of gun references, by the end of XO Experience, you'll never want to touch another drop of booze. Which is a shame, since the presence of Busta Rhymes, Xzibit and hot production duo The Neptunes, and a madcap visual style, which playfully pastiches black heroes like Jackie Robinson, Huey Newton and Jimi Hendrix (complete with flaming Technics turntable in place of Strat), suggests that Tha Liks could be the next rap crew to follow Outkast out of the underground. All they need is a single with the hooky appeal of "Ms Jackson", which may entail a judicious remix of one of the better tracks here.