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Mack 10: The Paper Route

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Album: The Paper Route
Label: Hoo-Bangin/Priority

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Mack 10's third album, 1998's The Recipe, was one of the best West Coast gangsta-rap releases of the late '90s, a pop-savvy gem in which a small nation's worth of guest stars and cameos actually improved the overall product. It also offered, with "The Letter," The Recipe's centerpiece and moral center (and Mack 10's only solo turn on the album), a surprisingly eloquent defense of gangsta rap. The Westside Connection member's stock has only risen in the interim, with stellar appearances on hit singles such as Warren G's "I Want It All" and mentor Ice Cube's "You Can Do It." Mack 10's winning streak runs out, however, with The Paper Route, a tired and skimpy release that wallows in gangsta cliches and tiresome posturing. "From The Streets" gets it off to an abysmal start, matching Mack 10's trite lyrics to a monotonous, familiar beat. "Nobody" follows, a collaboration between Timbaland and Westside Connection that's undermined by substandard production and water-treading verses from Mack 10, Ice Cube, and WC. The rest of the album is similarly dire, mixing shameless "You Can Do It" re-writes ("Tha Weekend") with failed attempts to cross over ("Tight To Def," featuring Mack 10's fiancée, TLC's T-Boz) and collaborations that never quite gel. With The Recipe, Mack 10 transcended the well-documented pitfalls of gangsta rap through winning chemistry, deft sampling, and solid songcraft, with "The Letter" articulately arguing for the genre's enduring significance. On The Paper Route, he inadvertently makes an even stronger case for its artistic bankruptcy.