Currently the hottest sound in hip-hop is Crunk. It's a southern party music emanating primarily from Atlanta that's loud, hard-driving, and bass-oriented and features chants and exhortations for the crowd to go wild.
Into this arena enters St. Louis's Chingy, who currently is atop the rap singles chart with his hit “Right Thurr.” Chingy has been described as a Crunk artist and has elements of Crunk in his music, such as driving beats and chanted hooks. But it's more like Crunk Light.
For example, on his hit and on tracks such as “Chingy Jackpot,” and “Holidae In,” featuring Ludacris and Snoop Dogg, he reminisces about various encounters with beautiful women, which is not really associated with Crunk.
Further, Chingy is a lyricist who raps in detail on all of his cuts, where most Crunk artists tend to be more concerned with the hook of the song and the beat. His voice is light and his flow melodic, much more in keeping with the “St. Louis Sound” established by artists such as Nelly.
Chingy raps about having a good time, kickin' it with friends, and most of all, being a player with the ladies. His vibe, though energetic and club-oriented, is more melodic and lyric-driven than traditional Crunk music. His sound and style have several different influences, but really it's southern fried rap.
- STEWART WALKER
The swaggering sound of Indigenous proves that the blues is in good hands decades after its creation. The young Native American band channels all the influences you'd expect: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, the Allmans - but there's nothing dull about their sound, which is equal parts garage rock, grunge, and blues. Their arrangements are tight, fast reminders that the blues is one of the most supple music forms. And Indigenous nudges it forward while remaining true to the roots.
- ROD LOCKWOOD
Thalia's self-titled Latin album, released last year, was a chart-topper. Now, the singer is aiming to expand her audience with this debut English CD - though still retaining a Latin flavor by including Spanish versions of four of the disc's songs. Working with top producers, Thalia kicks off in high-energy style with the first single, “I Want You” featuring Fat Joe, and her appealing vocal style works quite well with the bottom-heavy beats on tracks with danceable grooves.
- RICHARD PATON
On his ninth album, Tracy Byrd sticks to what has been successful for him in the past - a mixture of party songs and power ballads. He delivers with “Drinkin' Bone” - a humorous song that looks at how drinking can lead to nothing but trouble - and the ballad “Making Memories of Us.” Byrd isn't trying to reinvent country. He just offers songs that are fun and memorable.
- BRIAN DUGGER
Some jazz bands continue in spirit long after their demise, and Buddy Rich's big band is one of them. Buddy's Buddies, led by drummer Steve Smith and anchored by tenor saxophonist Steve Marcus and altoist Andy Fusco, continues to lay down a big band sound while only a quintet. This is high energy music with plenty of room for the musicians to solo. The arrangements are tight and there is little time in 10 tracks to catch your breath save for the single ballad “ How Do You Keep The Music Playing?”
- LARRY ROBERTS