3. De La Soul, Buhloone Mind State. In a year in which many rappers would've been naked without their cartoonish sexism and violence, De La turned out to be the most dangerous hip-hop act of them all, its reckless eclecticism orbiting stylistic circles around the blunt-puffing, bitch-smacking masses.

4. Snoop Doggy Dogg, Doggystyle. Dre prot‚g‚ Snoop, a self-termed conceited bastard, has every right to be. His quietly cocky phrasing is the deftest delivery in hip-hop.

5. Guru, Guru's Jazzmatazz: Volume 1. Miles ahead of Doo Bop, thanks to solid performances from both the hip-hop and jazz sides. Not a perfect genre-blending, but the closest to date.

6. Brothers Grimm, demo tape. Scottsdale's Brothers have hit on a ridiculously catchy gangsta-pop vein that makes them, without a doubt, the funkiest thing to come out of the Valley since Dyke and the Blazers.

7. A Tribe Called Quest, Midnight Marauders. Refreshingly free of jazz, blunts, gats or any other trend, the Tribe's understated, blue-collar sound is almost most remarkable for what it isn't.

8. Various Artists, the Judgment Night soundtrack. With rockers and rappers blending seamlessly, musical miscegenation has rarely sounded more inspired.

9. Cypress Hill, Black Sunday. The combo of Muggs' agitated beats and B-Real's ugly nasal rhymes goes beyond just great hip-hop; it's great grunge that stands up to anything coming out of Seattle these days.

10. Monie Love, In a Word or 2. So what if the absence of monster singles buried this album? Gonads or no gonads, Monie's still got one of the most ruthless tongues on the planet.

Charles Barkley, Nike spokesman
These are Sir Charles' favorite artists of 1993, in no particular order. He is a busy man these days; nine is apparently all he had time to enjoy.

1. Toni Braxton
2. Shai
3. Silk
4. Michael Bolton
5. Bobby Brown
6. Mariah Carey
7. Joe
8. Levert
9. Brian McKnight
10. Aretha Franklin

Larry Crowley, New Times contributor (country music)
1. Marty Brown, Wild Kentucky Skies. In his follow-up to the spectral High and Dry, Brown proves again precisely what the words "gifted" and "underappreciated" mean. Wild Kentucky Skies is high-class hillbilly, beginning to end. 2. Iris DeMent, Infamous Angel. Songwriter DeMent's accent is a beguiling, Arkansas-Kansas City hybrid, and her delivery is more than a little reminiscent of Jimmie Dale Gilmore's. The result is a countrified folk fest of unique, netherlandish vocals and powerful storytelling. Rare and wonderful stuff.

3. Robert Earl Keen, A Bigger Piece of Sky. Guitarist-songsmith Keen's oft-eerie tales of young lives lived on the edge are always carefully crafted and muscularly delivered; this year's batch is even more so, especially as he growls through the disturbing "Blow You Away" and weaves the startling story "Jesse With the Long Hair . . ." 4. Evangeline, French Quarter Moon. This harmony-driven quartet from Cajun country blends blues, country, rock, zydeco and a soup can of front-pew church music into a most flavorful musical gumbo. The choirlike, go-to-meeting beauty of "Don't Cross That Bridge" and the wistful "Elvis of the Night," especially, go perfectly with a cold Hurricane and a warm honey.

5. Nanci Griffith, Other Voices/Other Rooms. Griffith's a celebrated songwriter, but here she offers more than an hour of tributes to a handful of her musical influences. Her high, tender vibrato renders great, sometimes forgotten tunes like Dylan's "Boots of Spanish Leather" (with Bob Z. on harmonica), John Prine's "Speed of the Sound of Loneliness" (that's Prine's gutsy harmony there) and Janis Ian's "This Old Town" (with B‚la Fleck providing inspired banjo) fresh and fragrant. Oh, my.

6. Gary Stewart, I'm a Texan. Gravel-voiced, big-hearted Gary pours out the blues here--Texas-style, natch--like the smoky "Stompin' Grounds" (featuring Charlie McCoy's timeless mouth-harping) and the two best drankin' songs of the annum: "Hand Me Another" and "Make It a Double."

7. Run C&W, Into the Twangy-First Century. The Burns brothers--that would be Crashen, Wash, Side and, of course, Rug--have hightailed it from Kentucky to the Motor City to build Cadillacs and make hillbilly rap for the deprived masses. Go ahead and guffaw, but your toes'll tap to the Burnses' clever treatments of Rufus Thomas' "Walkin' the Dog" and Sam Cooke's "Sweet Soul Music."

8. Walter Hyatt, Music Town. Hyatt's ultrasmooth baritone and classy songwriting simply continue to amaze. Within his Music Town dwell cool Forties and Fifties couples who sway cheek to cheek to a smoky clarinet on "Must I Fall" and swing to the fiddle-filled "Teach Me About Love." But some nights, you know, they're down and alone--Out Where the Blue Begins," perhaps. Some town, Music Town.

9. Rhonda Vincent, Written in the Stars. Sweet-corded newcomer Vincent spent 27 years performing with her musical Missouri family before going it alone. Already an accomplished and talented singer, Rhonda has created a debut disc featuring exceptionally strong material, including Lefty Frizzell's 1974 "I Do My Crying at Night," but ballads best allow her wide range to rove.

10. Mark Collie, Mark Collie. Country-blues purveyor Collie continues an impressive balancing act there on the fence betwixt the Nashville norm and quasi-outlaw. With the former represented by three minutes and 40 seconds of outstanding country music in "Even the Man in the Moon Is Cryin'" and the latter in a passel of sharp blues--especially "Keep It Up" and "Shame Shame Shame Shame"--Collie shows us that his is a rare voice in milquetoast Music City. Dave McElfresh, New Times contributor (jazz)

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