By and large, r&b is a sick place: the preserve of doe-eyed young 'talent' squired, remixed, and generally rapped upon by Svengali producers ...

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Sweet Life

Product:

Sweet Life

BY AND LARGE, R&B IS A sick place: the preserve of doe-eyed young ‘talent’ squired, remixed, and generally rapped upon by Svengali producers who are more concerned with passing for ‘playaz’ than bringing new sounds to a tired canon.

We should, therefore, sing hosannas at the arrival of 18-year-old Nicole, the first protigie of Missy ‘Misdemeanor’ Elliott to appear on her Gold Mind label. Not only is Nicole Svengali’d by a woman – thus sidestepping any casting couch vibes – it’s the woman who, along with her programmer Timbaland, has made some of the most groundbreaking hip-hop of the late-’90s.

Pity then, that ‘make it hot’ is merely what Missy said to the waitress when she and Tim were ordering pie and coffee, having sewn up a handful of definitive tracks, leaving the bulk to the blandest whims of lesser producers. ‘Make It Hot’, the single, is pure Missy and Tim: pointed beats, tricksy instrumentation, a singular rap by Missy, and a cajoling, gymnastic vocal from Nicole. ‘Seventeen’, meanwhile, is the follow-up to Missy’s ballsy intro (“If you don’t like this record… dial 1-800-KISS-MY-BUTT!”), a classic teen plea ([I]”Call me!”[/I]) gone baaad.

These are two tunes that bust the R&B envelope wide open. Most of the rest are content to keep that envelope bulging with schmaltzy arrangements that do Nicole’s – and Missy’s – talents no credit. A lukewarm