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30 September, 2002@12:00 am

On his last album, Restless, Xzibit reinvented himself, transforming from the disgruntled L.A. emcee with the underground chip on his shoulder, to full-fledged C-Walkin’ Cali G. While in most cases, these types of transformations yield disastrous results and disposable albums (Buckshot, Mic Geronimo, Saafir, Tash Of The Liks to name a few), X is of that rare breed who has successfully made the jump from underground to commercial, and actually improved in doing so. Okay, so some of you disagree with that last statement, but for those who don’t Man Vs. Machine picks up right where Restless left off, further solidifying Xzibit as a millennial version of Ice Cube, or at least the current hardest emcee on the west coast.

At first, Man Vs. Machine will hit and miss its audience like Tyson with one eye shut. It starts off amazingly strong with prison song, “Release Date”, and immediately grabs the listener with the Dr. Dre inspired “Symphony In X Major”, a ridiculous Rick Rock operatic number who’s choir doesn’t give a fuck (or a shit, for that matter). Rick Rock also chimes in lovely with the bouncy “Break Yourself”, further expanding his “Can’t Deny It” stabs, reinventing them lovely, as Ras Kass propels the hook. Meanwhile, top-down anthems like “Multiply”, “Losin’ Your Mind” (feat. Snoop Dogg), not to mention the somewhat typical (but still lovely) “My Name” (feat. Eminem) pretty much expand on the Restless blueprint, but each are crazy fun, and make for some of the album’s best tracks.

Speaking of blueprints, X gets a little more east-coast friendly on this album (“they got bloods and crips in New York, is anybody feeling me?”), employing Roc-A-Fella beat-machine Bink for the excellent “The Gambler”, a soulful throwback with a nicely mixed hook from Anthony Hamilton, that almost sounds like a sample. Meanwhile, Erick Sermon delivers “Right On” (which really should have included a verse from Redman, but hey), and M.O.P. shares mic time on “BK To LA” (which could have been a little grimier, but hey). And on the “bonus disc” (first 800,000 copies only, kids!), we get the obligatory DJ Premier banger “What A Mess”, where X drops poignant industry knowledge; not to mention the J-Beats’ produced “Enemies 2″, which keeps X in classic raw form, with abrasive pianos, and even more abrasive lyrics.

The only problems with Man Vs. Machine, are that the bad tracks are really bad, plain and simple. Jelly Roll delivers two soft & syrupy duds with the Toto “Africa” sample, “Heart Of Men” (yo, Nas did this three years ago, X) and the dated & disappointing “Harder” w/ Golden State. Also questionable is “Choke Me, Spank Me (Pull My Hair)”, where X wastes a Dre beat trying to either a) rhyme like Snoop, or b) rhyme like LL Cool J in “I’m That Type Of Guy” mode, failing miserably on both fronts. And while “Missin’U” is heartfelt, it certainly could have been pulled off better. But four out of nineteen ain’t bad.

Many will fault the album for these songs, but on the same token, X has delivered enough heat here that most of us will be able to hit the skip button when necessary, (although many will wonder why those tracks weren’t on the bonus disc). Either way, Xzibit still stands strong with his fourth release, but hopefully the machine won’t have as much control over the man’s next album.

  Mixtape D.L.
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