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Angie Stone

Release Date: 07.06.04
Record label: J Records
Genre(s): Rap, Hip-Hop, R&B, etc.

80 Music-Critic Score
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She Really DOES Rip It Up, After All
by: matt cibula


Angie Stone deserves her big huge hit, but this album won’t be it, because it is understated and classy. This is a sad commentary on America, but ‘twas ever thus. But it is all okay, on a “history alone can judge her” tip: this record is proof that “understated and classy” does not have to mean “boring.”


It’s probably true that Ms. Stone could sing the phone book and cause some of our natures to rise, but she’s not really the purring sex kitten here the way she was back at the start of her career, with all-woman old-school rap team Sequence, and the way she could still be if she wanted to be. No, she’s now more a vocalist than just a singer, more a stylist than a juggernaut. And that is a good thing, y’all. There has to be a market for this in America, just Has To Be, despite the recent commercial failings of all like-minded ladies of ambition and taste (Badu, Missy E’s This Is Not a Test, Jaguar Wright).


Stone, in her non-diva straight-up main personality, is a round-the-block girl, someone who’s lived and loved and lost and learned. Her songs are about telling someone that he’s been a baby-daddy for quite a while now (“Come Home (Live With Me)”) or discussing bad relationships (“You Don’t Love Me”) or great ones (“My Man”), and it’s mature without being all icky and venerable.When she makes a point she’s liable to purr rather than piss: the way she wraps herself around the lyric in “Lover’s Ghetto” is just a master class in class, in how to sell a song without selling one’s soul.


Many of these songs are just flat-out straight-up great, including the Missy Elliott co-written “U-Haul.” Missy got ALL of this one, I’d say, considering such supafly Missy-like lines as “This is tragic like when Michael left the Jacksons.” I love this song because it’s an “I’m leaving” narrative, the kind of thing where shouters shout all over the track; here, however, Stone feels contempt for the spurned love object but also saves some for herself, which is sad but it’s also the way things go: she has to pack up all her stuff on the "U-Haul" and block out his number when he call, you see, because otherwise she’ll be right back with him. It’s an awe-inspiring performance.


It’s also amazing that she’s got Anthony Hamilton in la casa for “Stay for a While,” which is almost avant-gardish abstractery, but not quite. And English ciphers Floetry do their floetic best on “My Man,” pulling out some cool syncopated call and response that makes me almost maybe want to hear their record.


But not all is well here. There is a tendency to lapse into sappy slow syrupy stuff, which is indulged a little too much. Also, the opening single, “I Wanna Thank Ya,” is pretty boring considering it’s a Jazzy Phizzle producshizzle and has Snoop Dizzle rapsizzling all over the trasizzle. (Sorry.) Her collaboration with Betty Wright goes nowhere. Angie Stone reminds me of L.L. Cool J at this point: great when someone pushes, but boring when it doesn’t happen.


I want to like this all the way but I only like it most of the way. Maybe you’ll have better luck. 11-Sep-2004 3:22 PM