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It seems kind of strange that someone could have multiple hip-hop studio albums without rapping or producing any of the songs, but such is the life of DJ Drama. The self-proclaimed “mixtape president” has taken some time off from dropping street records and putting in work with Aphilliates Music Group to create Gangsta Grillz: The Album Vol. 2.

Just like he did for the first volume in 2007, Drama once again plays host and facilitator to bring together some big names (and some lesser ones) from rap and R&B for 13 new tracks. As he told MTV before the album was released, the concept was simply to make something that rocked from beginning to end, and while it doesn’t quite succeed, it definitely has its moments.

Part of the fun of any project like this is seeing who ends up teamed together, and the strongest tracks on Vol. 2 have some nice combos. That includes the lead single, “Day Dreaming,” which finds Snoop Dogg, Akon and T.I. talking about the girl of their dreams – who just happens to be a stripper – over a Drumma Boy beat.

Other standout pairings include Ludacris and Busta Rhymes on “We Must Be Heard” as well as Bun B and Styles P’s “Pimpin Ain’t Easy.” The Atlanta anthem “A-Town” is a solid passing of the baton between T.I., Young Dro, Sean P and Lonnie Mac, and Drama even got certifiable hip-hop legends Too Short and Scarface to each drop a verse on the album.

Of course the very nature of a compilation like this makes it tough to strike gold on every song, and that’s definitely the case here. Sometimes its the production (handled by various people, but with seven tracks by V12 The Hitman), which feels a bit flat, or the subject matter, like when Mike Jones, Rick Ross and Trick Daddy can’t do much with “I’m Fresh.”

Other times its one rapper just not being able to follow the one before. Case in point: “Yacht Music,” which features a hell of a lead-off leg as Nas reminds us that “This recession don’t affect the rich” before it loses steam when Willie the Kid takes the mic. Part of the point of a project like Gangsta Grillz is to give artists like Willie, La the Darkman and Lonnie Mac more of a chance to shine, but throwing them in-between the stars sometimes doesn’t do anyone any favors.

There’s no doubt that Drama is excellent at what he does, and while this studio collection may not rank quite up there with some of his highly regarded mixtapes, it’s definitely solid and gives hope that Volume 3 – already in the works – could be even better.

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