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27 September, 2004@12:00 am

     “To smoke or not to smoke?” is no longer the question underlying Devin The Dude’s full-length albums, singles, guest appearances, probably even when he sings in the shower. Devin is not called “the Dude” for nothing, as his music serves as the soundtrack for smoke-fests (not Marlboros, folks), shotguns (not the kind with bullets), hot-boxes (not stoves or ovens), and just plain stoners. To Tha X-Treme is no different with Devin splicing his way through the sticks and stems as he creatively, albeit repetitively, creates another marijuana masterpiece that will no doubt appease his diehard pot-smoking delinquents but fail to serve as anything more than a novelty act to the rest of hip-hop.

     From the first pull, Devin opens his album with a cleverly pieced together introduction that does just that before leading into the title track, which sets a remarkably slow and mellowed-out pace to the album. How high are you, Devin? By the end of this attempt, running over 6 minutes, he clearly pulls metaphors out of the smoke-filled air to create simply horrific explanations of “how high” he is at the moment. Other tracks, such as the guitar-tinged “Right Now,” which uses an airplane ride to examine the flight of a high, and the Spanish-influenced “Motha” further pay homage to the buds and blunts with low-key efforts from the Dude that marijuana menaces will surely adore.

    Lest Devin the Dude fans forget, Dev also takes pleasure in creating wicked tales of the ladies in sexual tales of grandeur that are amplified on tracks like “Freak” and “Come On Come,” which leave little to be desired both through title and song. Though other songs like “Too Cute” feature an actually quite-soulful performance by Devin over a cool, jazzy beat, it seems as though he prefers creating raunchy accounts of sexual deviance littered with nonsense and below-average concepts.

     Not all Devin creates is over-the-top and dismissible for the non-smoking crowd though, as he actually proves on both “Anythang” and “Unity” that he can create a funky middle-ground at which almost any hip-hop fan can appreciate the creation. “Anythang” features solely crooning by the Levitated One with a melodious beat that comes across as the downplayed stepchild of Ruben Studdard’s “Sorry 2004,” but beautifully fills a niche on the album and also serves as the catchy first single. “Unity” is a surprising tribute from Devin featuring lines like, “A stranger might just be a friend you haven’t met,” that takes a very proactive effort from the Dude (although it does end with the sound of Devin taking one last pull before the album ends). Even Devin’s crazy antics will work well for all at some points though, as “What?” views him as living proof of the song title by telling one wild story (even by his standards) where he manages to tie a walk with his girl and throwing rocks at ducks together into one sentence. Paired with an absolutely addictive whistling beat, the song is as hilarious as it is confusing and is poised to whistle in the backs of heads for hours.

       To Tha X-Treme, the third in Devin’s arsenal, really does not differ much from what would be expected of the Dude’s slow, mellow beats featuring a variety of wacky stories along with the stereotypical drug adages and freak shows that Devin has adopted. Everything has a place in hip-hop with this definitely belonging in between the rolling paper and floating away from those looking for something a little less novelty and a little more powerful than “To Tha X-Treme’s” temporary high….

  Mixtape D.L.
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