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50 Cent: The Massacre
By Sarah Butler, 16, La Cañada HS

I’ve never considered rap and hip-hop art, though I’ve always defended 2Pac, Biggie and a few others as great. 50 Cent, with his second album, The Massacre, does not fall into this elite category of rappers. The beats may be different from his previous album, Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, but the rhymes sounds the same and carry the same repetitive themes—sex, drugs and violence.

I had hoped that 50 had matured as an artist and grown up and out of da club. Hope diminished as the gunshots rang out in the first 10 seconds of the album. I realized what this album really was—a deep-voiced man with an overactive libido and slurred speech, dropping n-bombs, unnecessary tasteless profanity and opening a forum to start pointless "beefs" with other rappers. "Jada’ don’t f*** with me, if you wanna eat/ Cause I’ll do yo’ little a** like Jay did Mobb Deep …" he assaults on "Piggy Bank." I mean, c’mon, 50, 2Pac totally played out the song-war in the 90s—be a man and stop it.

Some of his beats are so obviously Eminem that they detract from 50’s artistic credibility. "Candy Shop," however catchy and danceable, is a vulgar display of sexual innuendos. It also seems that in every other song he needs to remind the listener that he is on Shady/Aftermath Records and works with Dr. Dre and Eminem. Between name-dropping, insults, gunshots and Eminem, there is no room for any talent to shine through, which leads me to believe that 50 has none. 50 Cent is not worth the $17 and gets lost in the other corporate rap mediocrity.

Rilo Kiley: More Adventurous
By Machiko Yasuda, 17, Palos Verdes Peninsula HS

It’s been more than a year since the L.A. band Rilo Kiley released its third album, but I still find myself hopelessly addicted to Jenny Lewis’s sweet-sounding voice and the band’s diverse sounds.

What I love most about this album is its variety. Although all the tracks feature the band’s thoughtful lyrics and Lewis’s wide vocal range, there is no such thing as the typical "Rilo Kiley song."

The album starts off with a politically motivated opener, "It’s a Hit." Lewis casually sings about a "chimp that plays human for a day" and how "it’s a jungle when war is made … / the camera pulls back to reveal your true identity/ it’s a sheep in wolf’s clothing/ a smoking gun holding ape." The "chimp" and the war scenario she describes sounds a lot like our president and our current war. In the title track, Lewis conveys a yearning for love through her candid, almost-conversational style and the soft, delicate melody in the background. But seconds later, you hear explosive guitar riffs and Lewis’s feisty voice and occasional shout in the rock song "Love and War (11/11/46)." Lewis further pushes the limits with the girly, alt-country sounding "I Never."

The L.A. band bravely experiments with other styles, too, like its Postal Service-esque electric beats in "Accidntel Deth."

On More Adventurous, Lewis proves that she is the queen of the fiery rock song and the sincere ballad, while the band transcends the limits of any music genre.

Kanye West: Late Registration
By Jonathan So, 13, Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies

The first day I saw this album, I thought it would be a typical rap album about drug addictions, "bling" and women. But as I continued to listen, Kanye West talked about totally different things.

Even if you generally don’t like rap, give West a try. The album has upbeat rap songs like "Gold Digger," and soft rap like "Diamonds." The lyrics in almost all of his songs deal with different things like family relationships, particular people and even God. Each song is like a story revealing his life.

In "Hey Mama" he raps about his love for his mother: "Hey Mama, I wanna scream so loud for you." And in "Addictions" Kanye says: "Why everything that’s supposed to be bad make me feel so good." These catchy lyrics combined with the R&B and rap beat beat keep you listening constantly throughout the day.

I love every song on the whole album, but my favorites are "Gold Digger," "Hey Mama," "Roses" and "Diamonds." Each song has its own style and spectacular lyrics that make you want to dance and sing.

It’s the perfect album to listen to on a long boring road trip, at school or at home. I think it’s the greatest rap album ever!