Music News

Freddie Foxxx/Bumpy Knuckles

Brooklyn's Freddie Foxxx (aka James Campbell, who also performs under the alias Bumpy Knuckles) seems to share a lot with 50 Cent, the rapper who rose from the streets of Jamaica, Queens, to offer the Dr. Dre-produced and Eminem-endorsed multiplatinum-selling album Get Rich or Die Trying. Both rappers look similarly menacing, naming names and claiming to be uncompromised, but Foxxx refuses to support the type of major-label machine that's keeping 50 Cent fed. Burned on previous albums by the machinations of large companies, Foxxx burrowed into the underworld of the streets, built his own recording studio, and went back to the drawing board. He emerges with this potent, scathing second album on a respected British independent label that declines to censor him.

50 Cent first garnered attention for his 1999 rap "How to Rob," which ruffled feathers by describing the kidnapping and mugging of current hip-hop and R&B stars. But it was no more than benign parody calculated to get him noticed; the joke was so funny to some of the artists named that he works with them today. Foxxx, on the other hand, caused real fear with 2000's "Industry Shakedown," which named specific record-label executives and threatened acts of murder, rape, and assault. Foxxx makes the distinction between himself and corporate rap clearer on Konexion, when he describes himself as a "self-made dollar" on "Drop a Jewel." "Stand up and show me an MC realer than me," he challenges on "Poetry," with the confidence that this would be a difficult task indeed.

Konexion calls out the ills of the music business while giving the listener intelligent wordplay and varied, considered beats that interact with Foxxx's lyrics rather than lurk like karaoke tunes. For example, the staccato guitar slashes on "No I Ain't With It," a diatribe against commercial rappers who compromise themselves, seems to mimic the vitriol in Foxxx's voice. His passion isn't always channeled into brute-force anger; it can swing the other way into intense love, as on the title track, which rides a gently sexy electronic soul clap over a testimonial of affection for hip-hop. If you like the theory behind 50 Cent, chances are you'll prefer this truer story.

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Tamara Palmer