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1 January, 2001@12:00 am

While The Alkaholiks return minus a few syllables (please now refer to them as Tha Liks). The trio’s first LP in four-years, X.O. Experience, has a very familiar theme; which J-Ro elegantly reiterates on “Bullyfoot”—”keep it pouring motherfucker till it hurts to swallow.”

Though Tash & J-Ro’s frat-boy exuberance still runs rampant, the groupÂ’s return is marked by a noticeable change in direction. With X.O. Experience, Tha Liks are hunting for the one thing that has previously eluded them, commercial success. In doing so, E-Swift revamps Tha Liks’ sound, eschewing there largely drunken-funk based upbringing, and leads the group into the now very fashionable computerized domain. While this flossy evolution will have its fair share of naysayers, E-Swift does an admirable job of fusing together, and delegating (Rockwilder , Neptunes , DJ Scratch , DJ Twinz ) palatable tracks that will appeal to a broader spectrum of fans, without completely alienating the group’s loyal underground contingency. The trio’s breakout lead-single “Best U Can” best exemplifies their new outlook. Thanks to The NeptunesÂ’ repetitive production, and Pharrel’s borderline corny hook, “Best U Can”, much like X.O. Experience manages to tow the fine line between jiggy, and underground. The underrated Swift turns in his best work on the rap-rock extravaganza “Promote Violins” featuring Kurupt, and the raucous, bassoon drenched “Goin’ Crazy”. Yet, Swift is not manning the boards for the true bangers here, as Tash & J-Ro’s party-favors mesh more favorably over Rockwilder’s vibrant electronic effects on “Run Wild”, and DJ ScratchÂ’s boombastic drum bursts on “Bully Foot” featuring the eternally amped Busta Rhymes, in classic dungeon dragon steeze.

Though the jubilant low-end production found throughout adds a fresh dimension to Tha Liks lyrical guzzling, Tash and J-Ro do not rip through their rhymes with the same ferociousness, or proclivity that accompanied earlier endeavors. However, their chemistry is bananas (no shortage of witty barbs), and both sound as hungry as ever on “Goin’ Crazy”, and “Bar Code” f/ Xzibit. Tha Liks unabashed attempts to finally breakthrough commercially does lead to a few missteps; “My Dear” featuring the once promising Defari is a misogynistic tryst that loops Pharcyde’s “PassinÂ’ Me By” hook about six-months after R&B crooner Joe raped it. Likewise, “Sickness” featuring Butch Cassidy , and the lazy “151″ featuring Xzibit, are nothing but filler material.

Yet, even with those shortcomings in mind. With X.O. Experience Tha Liks have accomplished their goal in crafting a party LP that any hip-hop fan can enjoy. However, similar to Redman , if you have heard one Liks LP, you have heard them all, it’s just up to you to decide which version of the crew you like best. As the redundancy of there tried-and-true formula is bound to leave a hangover – yet a hangover is a small sacrifice to pay for the all night bender that is X.O. Experience.

  Mixtape D.L.
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